"Restoring fiscal sanity to state government" was the hook for donations to The Bell Policy Center in a solicitation I received from them last week via US mail. That slogan was printed on the envelope and highlighted again in Bell's letter cosigned by former Colorado Supreme Court justice Jean Dubofsky and my onetime state Senate colleague Penfield Tate III. The pitch starts by trumpeting, without specifics, this year's "progressive victories [which] will make change possible for all Coloradans." Presumably this means the state's support for Obama, Udall, and Markey as federal candidates, since Bell then admits "tough lessons [from] the failure of several ballot measures" including the TABOR-busting Amendment 59 -- busted decisively by voters -- as well as the defeat of a sales tax hike under Amendment 51 and an energy tax hike under Amendment 58.
In this context, the letter's first line, "Congratulations on a job well done," has the hollow ring of a surgeon claiming the operation was a success but the patient died. Colorado taxpayers can only hope for more such jobs well done from the spending lobby, after the opposition to Amendment 59 won big despite being outspent something like 50 to 1.
Really the whole letter was a most amusing read to brighten my Sunday amidst the sad reality of Bush making nice with the UAW. The Bell promises all of us who donate (sorry, I won't be one of them) a productive 2009 with "in-depth research and analysis [toward] understanding how Coloradans assess the state's fiscal condition."
Come on, guys, you could get a pretty good idea of that by just thinking with an open mind about what message voters were sending with the rejection of Amendments 51, 58, and 59. Seems to me it was a message for the legislature and governor to make do with existing revenues -- prioritize better and spend smarter -- so that working families can keep scrimping their own recession-stressed budgets without a heavier tax burden.
But then, recession is apparently not on The Bell's radar. "These tough economic times" are referred to in this fund appeal only with relation to Center employees "tightening our belts to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible." Okay, so far so good -- but neither the substance of the letter nor the content of Bell's website acknowledges that the very same prescription is needed for Colorado's fiscal sanity.
Maximizing revenue, not tighter belts and greater efficiency, seems to be their exclusive focus as far as government is concerned. A search of the website turns up nary a word of analysis on why Amendment 59 was crushed and what that might mean for "sane" policies going forward.
What we have here is a think tank suffering from groupthink -- a shrink in denial.