Why the fog and fear on C & D?

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, Oct. 2) Tax advocates are revving the panic siren and cranking up the fog machine. Will it be enough to reverse their weak polls and pass Referendum C & D, saddling Colorado families with higher taxes and deeper debt? This month will tell. The fear and confusion tactic was carried to extremes by State Rep. Anne McGihon (D-Denver) in a debate with me the other day. If C & D are defeated, she said, when Gov. Bill Owens signs the budget next year, “he will not only be signing a death warrant for programs, he will be signing a death warrant for people.”

A death warrant for people? In a state government that will still have more than $15 billion to spend, even if voters say no to the almost $6 billion in extra revenues and borrowing the referendum proposes for coming years? Evidently the taxers can’t make their case without insulting our intelligence.

The panic part of McGihon’s claim is absurdly unconvincing. Age, accidents, illness, and crime take lives every day. Will that unfortunate toll be lessened by growing the bureaucracy at a 6% annual rate until 2011, instead of the lesser growth estimated without C & D? There’s not a shred of proof it will.

The fog attempt by Death-warrant Anne also mocks common sense. Are we supposed to believe that if the tax increase loses, her Democratic majority will pass lethal legislation releasing violent criminals from prison, emptying the nursing homes, boosting pollution, and defunding the police? Or that if they did pass such reckless bills, Republican Bill Owens would sign them?

The fog machine wants you to think that unless we as taxpayers fork over the demanded ransom, our $15-billion government has no option but to begin imploding. Baloney. Before human harm is “unavoidably” done by budgeteers, couldn’t tobacco payments be sold for $1 billion, and non-historic state buildings be cashed out for big dollars, as Owens has advocated in the past?

Couldn’t the state employee pay raise be cancelled? Couldn’t the $2.5 billion in unforeseen federal highway money that’s now headed our way be used to make roads safer, if voters say no to the credit-card approach for roads in Referendum D? The answer is yes.

Even McGihon’s alleged “death warrant for programs” is mere doomsday fantasy. Threatening to close entire colleges echoes the “shut the Washington monument” tactic beloved in Congress. Remember when Treasurer Owens first ran for governor in 1998, targeting 5% savings in the budget? Instead of redlining one of 20 campuses, 1/20 of what each campus spends could be economized with little harm.

As Senate President last year, I partnered with the Governor in urging two years of smaller tax refunds and slower growth in school spending, $100 million each per year from TABOR and Amendment 23. Democrats blocked that. But Owens and I both said then that lowering the taxpayers’ expected refund would amount to a tax increase. My spring 2004 clip file shows him admitting it in papers across the state, and I still admit it.

Today, however, as we know from his TV ads, my old friend and fellow conservative maintains the $3.7 billion take-back from families to government under Referendum C is NOT a tax increase. Why the fog? C & D proponents should candidly acknowledge that zero TABOR credits will indeed mean a giant tax increase -- Then let’s argue over whether the increase is needed.

Rep. McGihon, when we debated, fogged away on the technicality that tax rates won’t change -- while ignoring the fact that government’s tax take will go up when those billions get subtracted from the budgets of breadwinners and employers and added to the budget of politicians.

The fog continued when McGihon said the TABOR credits which ordinary folks will lose if C & D pass – for things like child care, car registrations, medical bills, rural health, foster care, and charitable donations – are “special interests.” Please.

Colorado has a proud fighting tradition in politics. Down the homestretch on Referendum C & D, let’s make it a fair fight, no fear, no fog.