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Bruce is Back

July 26, 2002

It will take 80,571 people to sign Douglas Bruce’s petition to get his latest tax cut issue on November’s ballot. I hope they at least read it first.

Bruce got plenty of signatures for his last effort in the year 2000. If you’ ll remember, that one was sold as Taxcut 2000, but it didn’t come close to passing, and after the election, Bruce referred to voters as ungrateful idiots who didn’t have the sense to recognize how much he was doing for them.

He declared that he was done trying to help Colorado taxpayers. But … no such luck. He’s back.

Bruce is trying to resurrect Taxcut 2000 for this year’s election, and it’s the same vindictive and destructive proposal as two year’s ago.

The proposed Colorado Constitutional amendment would mandate tax cuts from the bill of each and every taxing entity beginning at $30 the first year and then growing by $30 each year to $60, $90, and so on forever.

To avoid letting local voters negate the tax cuts — in the way many did with the provisions of Bruce’s 1990 TABOR amendment — this proposal specifies that voters may cancel the tax cuts for one or two years only.

Mr. Bruce is our friend: He wants to save us from our own foolishness. As this is a constitutional amendment, it would apply to everyone in the state; if it passes, local preferences and local votes won’t matter.

This time, the proposal has a somewhat deceptive selling point that will certainly be trumpeted in the ads, a line that reads: “Districts may offer a choice on each tax bill, to allow taxpayers to receive or to refuse each tax cut.”

It sounds like freedom of choice, but it creates a fundamental change in government funding. It sticks us halfway between taxation and free-market buying of services. But many government services can not be efficiently, or sensibly, or fairly offered “a la carte.”

How shall one buy fire protection a la carte? “Hello, my house is on fire. Do you have any specials today?”

Must you contract for service beforehand in order to get firemen to show up at all? Should you tip them?

This would make interesting times for lawyers. Could districts restrict service for reduced tax bills or refuse service for those who dropped off the tax rolls? There is, after all, no provision in the amendment for replacement of the revenues lost in the taxcuts.

Surely Mr. Bruce, a bottom-line landlord himself, is not proposing that people get something for nothing.

After a couple of years of such cuts, our library district would be inoperable. The board might continue, for a while, to collect enough revenue to pay for utilities and insurance, as well as to repay the construction bonds, but the library would have to close.

If that were to happen, what would the library’s options be? We could change to a membership plan, or a pay-as-you-go option, but this would greatly change the long-standing mission of the public library.

Imagine this: “Hey, Mom! Can I have some money? I have to go to the
library.”

Bruce’s proposal is poorly conceived from the standpoint of good government and good community, but for creating confusion, and throwing a wrench in the works, it will do just fine.

I think this is an important issue and needs discussion. I will certainly bring it up again if Bruce’s taxcut proposal is ultimately approved for November’s ballot. Stay tuned.

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