CUT ratings scary for West Slope taxpayers
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on October 31, 2005.
It is appropriate that the election to decide Referenda C and D will be held tomorrow, the day after Halloween, because the advocates of those massive tax hikes have been trying to scare the pants off members of every conceivable interest group.
Judging from the tax-and-spend rhetoric, those measures would be all things to all people. But, as we learned as children, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. That money -- estimated at $3.743 billion over the first five years alone -- would come from somewhere. It would come out of the pockets of taxpayers and diverted to the coffers of politicians. Those who work for a living would have less money to spend with local businesses and charities, and less money for their own families' health care, education, and other needs.
But you still have time to stand up for economic liberty and vote "no" on Referenda C and D. You still have time to tell the politicians that they need to make government more efficient and cut wasteful and low-priority spending, not raise taxes. Make sure your vote counts!
But if the tax-and-spenders are long on the trick and short on the treat, the recent ratings published by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers are truly frightening. CUT's ratings show the Democratic-controlled legislature is fiscally out of control.
Grand Junction's own state representative, Bernie Buescher, scored a zero, yes, a zero, on CUT's rating. As in, he didn't cast a single tracked fiscally conservative vote the entire year. Out of 25 bills that CUT tracked, Buescher voted against the taxpayer every single time. He is joined by five state senators and four other representatives for that "honor," including two legislators from Boulder. Buescher was actually beat out by one Boulder legislator, though not by much.
Meanwhile, Senator Ron Teck voted for taxpayers 44 percent of the time. By contrast, the top scorer in the Senate was Mark Hillman, who is currently serving as the state's Treasurer, with 83 percent. And Representative Josh Penry scored 64 percent.
Overall, the Senate scored a 30 percent, while the House scored a 33 percent. So at least two of the three local legislators scored above the average.
The big difference was between Democrats and Republicans. In the Senate, Democrats scored a mere 5 percent, while Republicans scored 57 percent. In the House, Democrats scored 8 percent, and Republicans scored 63 percent.
Governor Bill Owens actually rose in CUT's rating, climbing from a pathetic 33 percent to a lousy 41 percent. CUT states that, while "Owens used his veto to kill five of the bills objectionable to CUT," he also "teamed with the Democrats to give us Referenda C and D which would eviscerate TABOR and breaks his Taxpayer Pledge signed in 1998."
None of the local legislators has signed CUT's pledge. All the pledge-signers out-performed the local delegation, except Penry scored higher than one. The pledge states that a legislator will uphold the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, oppose any new tax increase, and "support prioritizing the budget by shifting spending from lower valued programs to higher priorities, and not fund spending with new taxes."
CUT's "Taxpayer Champions" are proud to have signed the pledge. Hillman said, "CUT's pledge is a constant reminder that a legislator's first responsibility is to be a lobbyist for the taxpayer." And Representative Bill Cadman said winning the award this year was "especially gratifying because the pressure to spend spend spend at the capitol was greater than ever."
CUT released its ratings at an October 15 breakfast in Arvada. Former Congressman Bob Schaffer addressed the crowd. He 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." He also said that "Referenda C and D... are an assault on economic growth and prosperity."
Two local residents attended the breakfast: Alan Farina of the Colorado Republican Business Coalition and Tom Bjorklund.
According to CUT's rating, Buescher voted against the interests of taxpayers on a number of issues. He voted to let RTD use eminent domain to take private property and reduce private operators. He voted to hide some salary information about government employees. He voted to weaken charter schools. He voted to use political force to interfere with the pricing of drugs. He voted to use tax funds for "behavioral modification" of obese people. He also voted to increase fees and licensing for plumbers.
A complete explanation of the ratings is available from CUT; see coloradotaxpayer.org.
Some of the bills are controversial, of course, even among fiscal conservatives. But, if you're a taxpayer, the fact that local legislators scored at best 64 percent on CUT's rating, and at worst a zero, is just plain scary.