Bruce Urges Action to Cut Taxes
by Ari Armstrong
[The following article originally appeared in the September/October 2001 edition of Colorado Liberty.]
Tax reformer Douglas Bruce prodded Denver Libertarians to action September 7 with "a four-letter word: WORK." Bruce spoke to about two dozen Libertarians at the Denver affiliate's monthly meeting. "Work causes [referred tax increases] to be defeated."
Bruce strongly supports citizens' initiatives to limit government abuses. He opposes initiatives referred by politicians that try to increase taxes or attack citizens' rights. "I recommend a simple rule," he said. "If it comes from the government, vote 'no.'"
Bruce urged freedom activists to use the provision in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) that allows individuals to submit comments about ballot initiatives. These comments are then edited and mailed out to all the voters in an area.
People can comment on initiatives at the state, county, and local level, Bruce noted. County clerks maintain information about county and city initiatives. Individuals can go to their county clerk's office to request a list, then submit comments about the initiatives. County clerks will also provide information about where to submit the comments about local matters.
Bruce stressed the point that this year all comments must be submitted by September 21. Because that date was prior to the mailing of Colorado Liberty, party leaders planned to release the information early on the party's web page and e-mail list. E-mail remains the fastest way for the state party to contact activists. To be added to that list, please contact David Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce recommended that comments be submitted on the day of the deadline or shortly before. Because comments are limited to 500 words per side, per issue, Bruce said activists in the same area should coordinate efforts. Also, comments may not name any person or organization.
Bruce said referred tax increases and debt measures are often left unchallenged by comment. "I'm disappointed that more people aren't taking advantage of it," he said.
In addition to submitting comments about referred tax increases, Libertarians and other advocates of limited government can get involved in other ways.
* Produce flyers that urge 'no' votes on tax and debt increases. Bruce said an effective flyer lists the bad ballot initiatives on one side, and arguments against them on the other.
* Write letters to newspaper editors. "The letters-to-the-editor section is the most-read portion of a newspaper," Bruce said. * Run for local office. Bruce said Libertarians should begin by serving in a local office. He said even local office holders can save taxpayers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Serving for local office is also a great way to advance to the state legislature.
* Promote pro-freedom initiatives.
* Speak at legislative hearings.
* Research local budgets. If the government suddenly starts spending a lot more money on a program, that may be a sign of wasteful spending. By finding instances of government waste, activists can convince other voters to oppose new taxes.
Bruce announced plans to form a new tax reduction group, Active Colorado Taxpayers. The acronym, ACT, describes what Bruce has in mind. "We really want people who will go out and do something."
The tax reformer described various ways the government is ripping off the taxpayers. For instance, the upcoming Referendum A would allow the state to go into debt in order to finance open space. It would permit "borrowing to occur behind closed doors." He said the debt would last twenty years, even though it depends on lottery dollars for repayment, and the lottery is authorized for only eight more years.
Monorail is another example of an ineffective, costly proposal. The plan is to spend $50 million on a government study, then several billion more dollars to build it, then run it at a loss indefinitely.
Bruce laid out a number of strategies that activists can use to defeat wasteful tax spending. If a government entity proposes numerous new taxes at once, that can often be used as evidence that spending is out of control. Tax reformers should stress that so-called "excess revenues" would otherwise go back to taxpayers unless spent on new government programs.
Counter politicians' attempts to create fear. For instance, if politicians try to raise taxes on the pretext that they will benefit an essential, popular program like the police, reformers should point out all the other wasteful programs that could be cut to cover the expenses.
Reformers need to make simple arguments that resonate with voters. For instance, arguing that "the basics come first" helps to point out all the wasteful spending that could be cut. Government should "live on a budget, not a blank check."
To become involved with tax limitation in Colorado, please send your name, address, and other contact information to email@example.com. If you do not have e-mail, call 719.550.0010.