CUT Rates the Legislature
by Ari Armstrong, October 16, 2005
"Referenda C and D... are an assault on economic growth and prosperity," former Congressman Bob Schaffer told members of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers (CUT) October 15. CUT hosted its annual awards breakfast to recognize legislators who scored highest in CUT's rating.
The "2005 Taxpayer Champions," according to CUT, are Mark Hillman (who is currently filling in as Treasurer), Doug Lamborn, Andy McElhany, Bill Cadman, and Dave Schultheis. All of those legislators scored over 80 percent in CUT's analysis of 25 bills. Cadman, the "House Champion," scored highest with a 96 percent.
Overall, CUT gave the legislature low marks for fiscal restraint and responsibility. The group's rating guide states, "CUT gives the Legislature a D again this year for what it did to the Colorado taxpayers. The Democrats took control of both the Senate and House and the whining mantra of not having enough of your money to spend went up several decibels... [T]he very worst action of this Legislature was to give us Referenda C&D..."
Unsurprisingly, Democrats fared worse in CUT's ratings than did Republicans. CUT rated Senate Democrats 5 percent, House Democrats 8 percent, Senate Republicans 57 percent, and House Republicans 63 percent. CUT's rating for Governor Bill Owens increased from 33 percent last year to 41 percent this year. CUT's report states, "Governor Owens used his veto to kill five of the bills objectionable to CUT. With the liberal-controlled Legislature, the Governor's vetoes were paramount in stopping some very bad legislation. Unfortunately, Governor Owens teamed with the Democrats to give us Referenda C & D which would eviscerate TABOR and breaks his Taxpayer Pledge signed in 1998."
Penn Pfiffner, CUT's president, moderated the breakfast. Pfiffner pointed out that all the legislators who signed the "Taxpayer Pledge" voted against bill 1194, the measure that authorized Referendum C.
Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, urged audience members to actively oppose Referendum C. "This campaign is about defending your freedom... I'm asking you to spend five hours for freedom," he said. Bruce said he believes Referendum C tries to improperly re-write the state constitution through statute. The fight over the tax measures "is a lot closer than I would like," he admitted.
Hillman said the CUT pledge "reminds us... we're there to represent the taxpayer... not special interests."
Cadman pointed out that he has come in first place four years out of five. He came in second in the second year, he said, joking, "I've come back to the fold." Cadman pointed out that the appropriations committee stacked up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new spending proposals. "There are a lot of voices down there [at the capitol]," Cadman warned about special interest groups, "and they all have their hands in your pockets."
Schaffer kept the audience chuckling as he criticized the governor and urged conservatives to reconnect with their basic values. He stepped in for John Fund, who was originally scheduled to speak at the breakfast but who remained in Washington, D.C. to work on story about Harriet Miers. (Fund works for The Wall Street Journal.)
Schaffer said he was glad to attend the breakfast so he could "see who else is not going to be invited to the governor's Christmas party this year. So congratulations to all of us, I suppose."
Schaffer outlined his vision of what the Republican "big tent" is supposed to look like. He said conservatives are supposed to be "united on... fiscal and economic issues of smaller government and a more vibrant private sector." Conservatives, he said, want to "pay for the legitimate functions of government," but at the same time work to eliminate "waste, fraud, and abuse" so that the "tax burden is as low as possible."
Unfortunately, Schaffer continued, today "we can't agree on what the big tent is." Some Republicans are "not just dismantling the big tent, they're burning it."
He broke up his intense rhetoric with some jokes. He momentarily forgot the name of Grover Norquist. (Norquist, with Americans for Tax Reform, recently criticized Owens over Referendum C.) Schaffer said he'd received one of the auto-calls featuring Norquist's comments. "I talk back during those things," Schaffer said, "but he just goes on..." But "it's nice to get big-shot calls," he added.
As an aside, Pfiffner noted in his introduction that Schaffer is no longer in Congress because (unlike others) he upheld his promise to abide by term limits. Yet, as Schaffer mentioned his loss to Pete Coors in the Republican primary (Coors lost the U.S. Senate seat to Ken Salazar), I thought I could detect some measure of disappointment about the way the self-imposed term limit turned out.
Schaffer talked at some length about national politics and the debt, "a tremendous burden that we have saddled on every young American." He talked about how, during Congressional hearings, he would sometimes ask a bureaucrat to resign for some failure or other.
In Colorado, Schaffer said, the "big-spending, high-tax party is in the legislature right now... They've got to ask for more money; that's just what they do. What is not explainable is when Republicans go along with them." Schaffer encouraged fiscally-conservative Republicans to go after "waste, fraud, and abuse" in coming years.
Schaffer said that education is the most important issue facing the country right now. He is concerned about the "capacity of the American citizen... to defend the Republic." Too often, "we don't know what it is we're defending," he said, criticizing the "government-owned, bureaucratized, union-run monopoly" schools.
Parents need choice in education, Schaffer argued. "We need to start treating parents like they're real consumers, teachers like they're real professionals, and children like they're real Americans."
In response to a question from the audience, Schaffer said that Americans are a compassionate people. Unfortunately, government spending tends to get out of control because "government takes advantage of our collective compassion."
Kevin Lundberg, another legislator who scored near the top of CUT's rating, predicted, "Those who will lead with Republican values will find an army behind them."