Hillman column: Democrats’ top legislative priority is getting re-elected
God saw fit to stop at 10 commandments, but politicians can’t leave well enough alone, so a series of “Eleventh Commandments” apply to them. One of those admonishes: Thou shall not make the voters more cynical.
This year, Democrats at our State Capitol are breaking that commandment, too.
With polls showing that Colorado voters may finally be ready to end their four years of unrestrained power, Democrats are discarding their professed priorities like a sinner headed for confession — hoping voters will forgive and (especially) forget.
So let’s take a little walk down memory lane and remember this journey through Election Day.
Last month, Gov. Jared Polis and legislative Democrats tossed aside 30 years of fierce opposition to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which they’ve blamed for everything from crumbling roads to failing schools. Instead, they held a press conference to tout “their” plan to send every taxpayer a $400 check barely one month before voters receive their general election ballots.
There’s just one problem: That money already belongs to taxpayers.
Those refunds are required by TABOR, the constitutional provision that limits taxes and spending and which Democrats have relentlessly sought to undermine. As recently as 2019, Democrat lawmakers — led by Polis — lined up in support of a proposal to permanently eliminate limits on government spending. Voters wisely rejected that idea. Had Dems gotten their way, they would be spending this extra money — not refunding it.
However, the scheme hatched by Democrats is novel in one respect: sending voters a check just before the election. For nearly 30 years, Coloradans have received their refund when they file their income tax return early the next year.
On another front, Democrats now seem to have buyers’ remorse toward their massive transportation bill from just last year. That bill raises the price of gas by 8 cents a gallon to generate billions to fund highway and transportation projects.
Polis proudly signed the bill just 10 months ago, calling the tax increase a “comprehensive solution” that “will finally fix the damn roads.” Democrats were confident they knew better than Colorado voters who had soundly rejected a smaller fuel tax increase in 2018.
Now, the very politicians who cheered that legislation want credit for giving Colorado drivers “relief” from rising fuel prices by delaying the first two-cents-per-gallon increase until — you guessed it — just after the November election.
Is it suddenly not important to “fix our damn roads” or to address the supposed $9 billion backlog in highway maintenance? After all, Democrats repeatedly remind us that delay allows inflation to make every project more expensive — and inflation is a much bigger problem now than it was a year ago.
Fuel prices have risen $1 a gallon in the last year, thanks to Democrats’ war on affordable fuel, both here in Colorado and across the nation. Remember, it was Polis and Democrats who passed draconian restrictions on our thriving oil and gas industry in 2019, barely six months after voters said “NO” to a similar ballot question.
The pittance that Democrats call “relief” amounts to savings of about 40 cents on a typical fill-up. After Election Day, the savings go away.
Lastly, Democrats suddenly express concern about rising property taxes, conveniently forgetting that they increased property taxes in 2020 and 2021. Coloradans are likely to see their property taxes rise by 20% annually thanks to soaring home prices and a 2020 ballot issue that eliminated protections for homeowners.
If broad property tax relief is truly important, why was no such bill introduced until the last two weeks of the Legislature’s 120-day work session?
For the past four years, we’ve heard Colorado Democrat leaders talk about the need for more money to fund their priorities. It’s now obvious that those priorities are all secondary to their one true priority: re-election.
Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. To read more or comment, go to http://www.MarkHillman.com.
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