We’ve discussed many times in this space the grossly inaccurate job numbers that opponents of Proposition 103 have been throwing out right and left. Opponents of Prop 103 have erroneously (and repeatedly) claimed that the education-funding measure could cost Colorado 119,000 jobs, but as The Colorado Statesman reports, the author of the study cited to reach those conclusions admits that there might not really be any job losses at all:
Asked by The Colorado Statesman whether his study shows that Heath’s proposal would cost the state 119,000 jobs by 2017, as Mitchell claims, Fruits grew silent for a moment and took a breath.
“This happens every single time,” Fruits said with a sigh. “I let my clients do what they want with it. My understanding is, they added it up. To be fair, a lot of people do that.”… Put another way, asserting that the study shows Colorado would have 119,000 fewer jobs – on a cumulative basis – through 2017 only makes sense if the state can count more than 14 million “cumulative” jobs by 2017, a number achieved by adding up each year’s total employment. (Colorado’s population is just over 5 million, according to the most recent U.S. Census figures.)
…Fruits also said he wanted to make clear his study doesn’t predict Colorado will lose any jobs if Heath’s measure passes, despite what Mitchell and other opponents are saying.
“It’s not quite correct to call it a job loss,” Fruits said. [Pols emphasis] “It is a difference in employment levels. If you don’t have the taxes, you’ll have one level; if you have the taxes, you’ll have another that’s lower.”
It was a point made by Buchanan and Heath, who disputed Mitchell’s claim that the ballot measure would cost the state jobs and accused their opponents of practicing “fuzzy, fuzzy math.”
Got that? The study that Prop 103 opponents are using to claim 119,000 “job losses” should the measure pass…isn’t actually really talking about “job losses” but “employment levels.” Which is really a fancy spin job way of saying that any specific claims about job losses in the wake of a minor tax change are complete and utter nonsense. And if that’s not enough, the study never cites any figure even remotely close to opponents’ claims.
We don’t envy Dr. Fruits’ position here — he’s trying not to completely throw his clients, the Prop 103 opponents, under the bus for misrepresenting his work. But he can’t really defend what they are saying without destroying his own credibility as an economist.
But wait, there’s more! Again, from The Statesman:
The study also predicts that – while Colorado’s population will continue to swell by an estimated 16,000 new residents annually – roughly 3,500 net fewer people will move into the state every year if Heath’s higher tax rates go into effect. That includes both more people leaving the state than would be expected and fewer people moving in. All told, it could mean $218 million in “potentially taxable income” won’t show up in Colorado, the measure’s opponents said in a statement.
That’s according to an economic model that looks at differing tax rates between states, a method the author of that portion of the study acknowledges doesn’t account for numerous other factors that lead people to move. [Pols emphasis]
This portion of the study would lead you to believe that people move from state to state based almost entirely on the tax rates they will face, as though people can recall tax rates like they do baseball statistics. Randall Pozdena, one of the authors of this ridiculous study, admits to The Statesman that he himself wouldn’t actually move to a different state (he lives in Oregon) because the tax rates are lower. “I live in a state that has the highest marginal tax rate on individuals and, by rights, my study would say I should move,” says Pozdena. “But there are things that offset that – my sons live here, I don’t like hot weather.”
This study is about as believable now as your cousin’s tale of that time he almost had a date with Jennifer Aniston. It’s bunk. The authors of the study freely admit that their clients spun the results into silly string. So please, Colorado reporters and media outlets, stop blindly reporting this doomsday scenario coming from opponents of Prop 103. There are arguments to be made both for and against Prop 103 — but clearly this claim of massive job losses ain’t one of them.