Westminster Taxes Promote State Spending Hike
by Ari Armstrong, August 8, 2005
It's a bizarre sort of world in which politicians at one level of government spend tax dollars to promote a net tax hike at another level of government. Alas, that is the sort of world in which residents of Westminster live.
A couple years ago, I complained about the city using tax dollars to promote government projects. Now, in the August/September edition of the tax-funded City Edition, the city spent tax dollars to promote Referendum C, the ballot measure that would increase state spending by an estimated $3.6 billion over the first five years.
The paper states, "City Edition is published six times per year as a news and information source for Westminster residents." It also states, "City Edition is distributed seven times per year via U.S. mail to all city residents and businesses." (It seems unlikely that the paper can be distributed more often than it is published, so I'll assume one of the numbers is incorrect.) The paper lists the City of Westminster as the point of contact, and it states, "Delivery problems should be brought to the attention of the Westminster City Manager's Office, 303-430-2400, ext. 2008."
But the "distribution problem" is that the tax-funded "news" paper is distributed at all. While of course the city must mail official notices to residents, it has no business spending tax dollars to compete with market newspapers, promote the sitting council members (as it does on the second page), or propagandize in favor of city or state programs.
Nearly the entire second page of the eight-page, tax-funded publication is devoted to propagandizing in favor of Referendum C.
The lead headline for that page reads, "TABOR Measure Marks 2005 Legislative Session a Success." Gee, no bias in that headline, eh? Just an "information source for Westminster residents." The legislature referred a measure to the ballot now known as Referendum C. (The article is reproduced at the city's web page.)
Many of us believe that Referendum C represents the biggest failure of the legislature. Rather than live within budgets that are already expected to increase every year, the legislators who supported Referendum C want to hike state spending by an estimated $3.6 billion more -- on top of already scheduled increases -- over the next five years. But rather than ask for a massive spending hike, the legislature should have worked to find greater efficiency in government and cut wasteful and low-priority items. During the alleged "budget crisis," the legislature spent millions of dollars collectively on such things as Viagra for sex offenders; a grant for an artist based on her work, "Twelve Dildos on Hooks;" an internet discussion about orgasms for high school students; condoms; booze for the University of Colorado; and corporate welfare.
Recent polls indicate that only a minority of Coloradans support Referendum C (while some remain undecided). At least a large minority of Westminster residents believe that Referendum C constitutes a legislative failure, not a "success."
By spending tax dollars to promote ideas which many residents oppose (in this case, a proposal for a massive net tax hike), the city directly violates the rights of those residents. The right of free speech entails the right not to speak and not to subsidize ideas one finds offensive. Thus, the city of Westminster has blatantly violated the rights of free speech of every resident who opposes Referendum C or who opposes using tax funds to promote it.
The tax-funded article claims the legislature took "a positive step toward addressing the state's budget crisis." The article continues: "The most positive step: the city supported a historic compromise reached by Republicans, Democrats and the governor to address some of the state's budget issues."
Describing Referendum C as a "positive step" is nothing but tax-funded propaganda. Many oppose the measure and regard it as a negative step.
The article claims that Referendum C would "allow the state to retain revenue it is already collecting to fund key education, transportation and other priorities."
Here Westminster's propaganda is misleading for two reasons. First, it does not make clear that the alternative to the state keeping the excess revenues is to refund that money to taxpayers. Second, there's nothing that guarantees the money will be spent on "priorities." Indeed, the legislature has failed to cut wasteful and low-priority programs during the alleged time of "crisis." (The article is biased merely in describing the budget situation as "crisis.")
The second article on the second page is titled, "Voters to Address State Budget Shortfall." (It too is reproduced at the city's web page.) But there is no "shortfall." Instead, the total budget has increased every year during the alleged crisis (though the general fund took a hit for two years), and the budget is expected to increase every year from now through 2009-10. Yet according to Westminster's tax-funded propaganda, a budget expected to increase every year into the future faces a "shortfall."
The article claims, "Collectively, these referendums [C and its companion, D] and a companion bill that grants temporary reduction in state income tax are known as the Colorado Recovery Act." The quoted line omits crucial relevant information. Specifically, net taxes would be increased, because all TABOR-related refunds would be completely eliminated for five years. Thus, net taxes would go up by a total of (an estimated) $3.6 billion over five years.
The article includes a quote by Bill Owens supportive of the net tax hike, but it fails to include any critical quote about it.
Politicians and bureaucrats from the city of Westminster have spent tax dollars to propagandize in favor of a state-wide tax-and-spend proposal, and they have thereby violated the rights of residents.