We’ve been keeping track of the ongoing temper tantrum by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, raging against fellow Republicans who supported a key piece of legislation last year that saved funding for health care from the chopping block by exempting the state’s Hospital Provider Fee program from the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Although the deal saved rural hospitals in Republican districts from possible closure, Caldara and ideologues on the right were incensed at the missed opportunity to “starve the beast”–to force cuts and TABOR-mandated refund checks instead of letting the state spend the funds as intended.
In a Denver Post column earlier this week, Caldara keeps the drumbeat of discontent going strong:
President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress just gave us a large tax cut. But Colorado’s Republican-controlled state Senate had already taken it away.
To comprehend how that’s possible, we need to understand the largest betrayal of Republican values in Colorado political history: the tax-hiking, debt-raising, TABOR-busting Senate Bill 267, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and enabled by the schizophrenic leadership of Senate President Kevin Grantham…
[L]ed by Sonnenberg, the legislature put the hospital “fee” into a different state-run checking account, thus technically, and laughably, “out” of the state budget. Not only did this mean we won’t get our excess revenue refunds now, it means the state budget now has lots of room to balloon before they’d ever have to write a refund check to we urchin taxpayers.
By contrast, Republicans in D.C. were acting like Republicans and actually reducing our tax load. But by an odd twist of accounting, the Trump cuts means Colorado, on the state level, will be taking even more of our money.
Caldara is referring to the inverse effect of the federal tax cut bill’s elimination of many tax deductions in the name of lower tax rates–which has the effect of increasing taxable income, thus increasing Colorado’s income tax revenue. Curiously, Caldara says nothing about House Republican leadership’s call for that money to be spent on transportation projects–focusing only on legislation proposed by Senate President Kevin Grantham to cut Colorado’s income tax to offset the windfall gains.
If Sonnenberg and Grantham didn’t collude with Democrats to pass their original massive tax grab, SB 276, which freed up the room in the state budget to absorb all this extra cash from the Trump tax cut, it would have just been refunded to us via the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. No fuss, no muss.
Given that House Republican Minority Leader Patrick Neville has specifically called for the windfall funds to be spent and not refunded, it’s quite revealing that Caldara is choosing instead to focus his wrath on Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Senate President Kevin Grantham over last year’s legislation. Politically it makes a degree of sense to insiders, since the Neville clan is much closer to Caldara both geographically and ideologically. But if you don’t already know that, it just looks weird.
Regardless, Caldara is pulling out the biggest guns in his bag to press the attack on Senate Republicans:
As Republicans in DC gave America a tax cut, Republicans in Colorado raised taxes without asking voters. Read @JonCaldara‘s column on this grand betrayal from “conservatives” @SenatorGrantham @JerrySonnenberg @PollyLawrenceCO @owenjhill https://t.co/nL2bYlrxeG #coleg #COpolitics
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) February 7, 2018
But does anti-tax icon Grover Norquist know the whole story? It seems to us as though if he did, Patrick Neville would be coming in for at least as much criticism. We have no idea how this conflict will resolve itself–quite possibly with Neville backing down in disgrace–but it’s the most intraparty fireworks we’ve seen between Colorado Republicans since Caldara and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners went to war over “compromise” legislation to raise the gun magazine limit to 30 rounds.
And, well, somebody’s going to lose.