Same state, different worlds |

Same state, different worlds

Despite rising anxiety about the future of state services, including higher education, Colorado voters will not be offered a possible fix this fall. To understand why, talk to Jared Polis and Jon Caldera.Polis, the chairman of the Colorado Education Commission, and Caldera, director of the conservative Independence Institute, represent the vastly different views held by those on the left and right regarding the state’s current budgetary vice.In recent interviews that failed to turn into a news story, Polis and Caldera offered their views on the state’s budget troubles.For Polis, a center-left Democrat, the trouble is all about the Taxpayers Bill of Rights or TABOR amendment to the state Constitution. That measure, passed by voters in 1992, limits government revenue and “ratchets down” the limits in years the state is hit by recession. Once revenue limits are cranked down by law, they can’t rise again in good times because of limitations on the rate of increase.Polis acknowledged the impact of Amendment 23, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires annual increases in state education spending, on the state’s budget. But, “We’d be in this mess even without Amendment 23,” he said.Contrast that with Caldera’s comments, which put the blame squarely on “unfunded mandates” such as Amendment 23. TABOR, Caldera asserts, has actually helped Colorado weather the most recent recession better than other states due to the very limits now choking the state budget. Further, the state’s budget woes are due to spending mandates and the inability of representatives (the majority of whom are members of the GOP, we must note) to contain their spendthrift urges. With a little discipline, Caldera says, there’d be no budget trouble at all, only thrifty, efficient government.There, in a nutshell, is the root of the problem: two sides divided over the very definition of a problem. Both sides so afraid of alienating their own true believers that compromise is at the very least unsavory and, far too often, unthinkable.And so the partisan nincompoopery continues.S.M.Vail Colorado

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