My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Potential Governors on Referendum C

Claremont Colorado, in association with Backbone America and John Andrews, has put out a questionnaire to the announced and unannounced candidates for governor in 2006. The results? Referendum C, the current governor's negotiated plan for dealing with the budget problems, is getting lukewarm support from the right side of the aisle.

Of course, keep in mind that only four people answered the questionnaire: Dem Bill Ritter, along with Republicans Tom Weins, Marc Holtzman, and Bob Beauprez. I only mention that to point out that this is hardly what you would call a scientific survey. It does, however, give a little insight into the thinking of the candidates.

The big question is, of course, question 1:

1. Referendum C, the so called Colorado Economic Recovery Act, which would allow state government to retain and spend some $3 billion in scheduled TABOR refunds, should be approved by voters in November. This has the options of "Agree," "Disagree," and "Other," with a space for comments. Here's what they wrote:

Ritter: Agree

Weins: Disagree

Holtzman: But as you know, I have always been a supporter of TABOR and would favor no changes in it. It has been good for our state and already includes adequate provisions for dealing with the sorts of economic downturns we have experienced.

As for Referendum C, I have publicly expressed my concerns about this measure and have said that I could not support it as presently written. Out of respect for Governor Owens, I have said I will reexamine my stance if he and others can justify some specific plan for the use of de-Bruced revenues.

Beauprez: The citizens of Colorado should be thankful for TABOR for several reasons. First of all, TABOR not only didn’t cause our current budget problem, the fiscal discipline it forced upon state government during times of economic prosperity helped prevent a budget catastrophe during recent recessionary times. Secondly, TABOR gives the citizens the authority to determine whether or not they will allow the state to take more or keep more of their taxes. We aren’t at the mercy of politicians to determine how much of our hard earned money the state should be allowed to spend.

As I spend time talking with experts on the state budget, I am increasingly concerned that Referendum C is to our budget problems what a chain saw would be to brain surgery – a blunt instrument for a delicate job. I understand that this Referendum is the result of political compromises rather than a careful analysis of the comprehensive needs of the state. And I do accept the fact that the state has several pressing infrastructure needs that must be addressed in the very near future. But I am not convinced that a $3 billion tax increase is the only way to get the job done.

I will continue to study this matter carefully, and watch and listen as the case is made to the citizens of Colorado. But today, this citizen has serious reservations about Referendum C.

I like that: "I am increasingly concerned that Referendum C is to our budget problems what a chain saw would be to brain surgery – a blunt instrument for a delicate job." What a lovely image.

I, too, have expressed some major reservations about Ref C--this is a $3.1 billion fix for an $800 million problem. Factor in that now the Democrats are talking about how this money will loosen the pursestrings on a whole range of budget items . . .

But up to 80 percent of the $3.1 billion, according to staff estimates, would go to health care and education - and much of it to maintain things the state already does (read: to avoid budget cuts).

Such spending carries a side effect: It frees up other money in the state budget.

For example: The 2005-06 budget gives the Colorado Commission on Higher Education about $77 million from the general fund for financial aid. Legislators could replace that next year with Referendum C dollars - leaving $77 million in the general fund for whatever they want.

This Referendum could easily be painted as a "blank check," and I think will have to overcome some heated opposition to get passed. The question is this: will all the political support of Gov. Owens, along with the near-unanimous support of state Democrats, bring enough Republicans over to C to get it passed? We'll find out.

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