Buoyant after pounding by Post

When the other side in an argument feels they have to defame your character, twist your words, and just plain make up stuff you never said, they obviously lack confidence in their own views and persuasive powers. This seems to be the case with Denver Post columnists Bob Ewegen and Diane Carman -- and the political operatives they front for -- when it comes to my opposition to Referendum C & D. The flailing by Post commentators began after I joined three other former Republican legislative leaders in spelling out the flaws of this huge tax and debt package at a July 14 press conference.

The budget should instead be balanced on the spending side, I said that day -- trim public school overhead so 65% of every dollar gets to the classroom -- let college tuitions rise for the more affluent families and help the less affluent with need-based scholarships -- build highways with state-of-the-art electronic tolling instead of the outmoded gas tax.

But it suited Ewegen, in his July 16 column, to quote only half of each recommendation I had made -- the strong medicine half -- and omit my explanation of how that medicine could be made palatable. Thus he made it appear I favored an approach to roads that predated the Model T, and that I intended a "nuclear option" against the schools.

My citation of a 2004 Owens-Andrews proposal for $100 million slower growth in school spending for two years, Ewegen twisted into $100 million actual cuts (not slower growth) forever -- which would eventually, in his words, "drive us down to the very bottom." An unwise policy, if I had ever proposed it -- but I never did. Ewegen did say he gives me "credit for honesty." Unfortunately I can't return the compliment.

The attack squad wasn't done with me yet. Carman, in her July 17 column, paraphrased Yes on C campaign manager Katy Atkinson as calling me a "duplicitous hypocrite... motivated by raw political self-interest." But all in a friendly spirit, of course, being as Katy and I are fellow Republicans and "old pals" in Carman's words (not).

And what did I do to deserve this little valentine from the opposition? I had the gall to be voting AGAINST, on this year's ballot, a tax hike smaller than one that I had voted FOR in the Senate last year. Horrors.

My reply to Mesdames Atkinson and Carman is fourfold. (1) Shooting the messenger does not make the message any less true. Higher taxes are NOT good for Colorado in 2005 and were NOT good in 2004 either. That's the question on the table. (2) My tentative and tactical support of various legislative bills last year, seeking some reciprocity from Democrats and finding none, never bound me to support such a bill if it got on the ballot. Indeed I said exactly that to Gov. Owens at the time.

(3) Atkinson is wrong that Ref C & D is easier on taxpayers than what I provisionally endorsed as a senator. Everything I pushed at that time included relief from Amendment 23 with its teacher union giveaways, a provision the Dems resisted last year and omitted this year. Finally, (4) during the summer of 2004 I was in the forefront, with Speaker Spradley, of resistance to a special session that would ask voters for a tax increase.

For all these reasons, my conscience is clear on the hypocrisy charge. If Atkinson finds my current stance "sad to see, especially in somebody I've always liked," maybe we can send her a cheer-up bouquet. Jared Polis owns a florist website, let him take care of it.

As for Katy's imaginative flights into Ewegen-land, putting words in my mouth from thin air -- "he thinks tuition should be doubled again" -- when it hasn't been doubled yet and I never advocated a redoubling of it -- that's just more proof of desperation on the other side. I don't take it personally. Same for the odd charge of Spradley and Andrews being driven by raw political self-interest. Neither of us is running for anything. What exactly do the tax-gals think is in this for us?

Remember, the Ewegen and Carman hit pieces appeared on the same weekend as the first published poll on Referendum C & D, showing a pathetic 43% yes rating. After 18 months of sky-is-falling budget warnings by press and politicians, and with only 100 days to go until the votes are counting, the poll suggests Coloradans are simply not buying this tax and debt package.

So if proponents feel driven to desperate distortions and personal cheap shots against those of us siding with the taxpayer, it's no surprise. On the contrary, it makes a guy feel oddly buoyant.