Nov 03, 2011 7:21 AM GMT
You probably won't be reading much about it, and don't look for the results to get a lot of airtime on CNN or MSNBC, but Colorado held a referendum on taxes on Tuesday. The tax increasers got blown away.
By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, voters rejected a $2.9 billion income and sales tax increase ostensibly earmarked for education. Proposition 103 would have raised the income tax rate to 5% from 4.63% and the sales tax to 3% from 2.9%.
Supporters claimed the tax would merely have been "temporary" and was needed to make up for recent cuts in state spending for K-12 and college education. Both are familiar ploys to sell tax hikes that fund higher spending and typically become permanent.
The education gambit was a sneaky attempt to undermine the state's landmark and popular Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which was approved by voters in the 1990s and has slowed the growth of government. Tabor, as it is known, caps the state budget to the growth of population and inflation each year while rebating revenues above that limit to taxpayers. The union scheme was to erode the spending caps by exempting education spending and earmarking new tax revenues to schools, which already command 40% of the state's general fund budget.
The Independence Institute, a free-market think tank, warned Coloradans that exempting education from the spending cap is what undermined California's Gann Amendment budget ceilings in the 1980s. California's spending and tax burden exploded in the aftermath, leading to its current fiscal and economic laments.
Colorado's antitax mood was equally clear at the local level. The Denver Post reports that "Aurora voters rejected a $114 million tax increase for recreation centers, Douglas County voters said 'no' to school tax increases, and Cañon City voters rejected a tax for library improvements." The paper called the overall results "a killing field for tax measures."
Even in the People's Republic of Boulder, voters only narrowly approved (with 50.27%, a margin of 141 votes) a $1.9 million tax to finance a new a municipal electric utility to replace the state's main electricity supplier Xcel Energy. Boulder residents will now have the pleasure of paying for their anticarbon indulgences.
Notably, too, voters in Denver elected two reformers to the school board, while suburban Douglas County elected a slate of pro-voucher candidates. Earlier this year Douglas County began a controversial voucher program that provides Choice Scholarships for low-income students and is now being challenged in court. The election results show that the voucher advocates have public support.
Oh, and one more burst of democratic common sense: Denver voters rejected, also by nearly 2 to 1, another union measure that would have mandated that all businesses pay sick leave for all workers. In 2008, Barack Obama carried Denver overwhelmingly and Colorado with 53.5% of the vote. Tuesday's results suggest that the 'Occupy Wall Street' mood that has so enthused Washington elites has yet to reach the Rockies.