Liars vs. Nerds: So Much For Proposition CC

Sandra Fish at the Colorado Sun reports:

The only-in-the-nation fiscal handcuffs on Colorado’s budget will remain in place after voters Tuesday rejected a move by Democrats to repeal the spending limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Preliminary election returns showed Proposition CC losing by a solid margin, trailing 56% to 44% with an estimated three-quarters of the vote counted.

If the numbers hold, it would amount to a resounding victory for fiscal conservatives and national organizations that spent big money to keep TABOR intact and push back against Gov. Jared Polis and the Democratic agenda.

There’s little question that the double-digit defeat of Proposition CC was a victory for Republicans, but we’ll stop short of calling it a “resounding” victory because the math doesn’t support the superlative. Compared to previous off-year revenue questions, 2013’s Amendment 66 and 2011’s Proposition 103, Proposition CC actually did quite a bit better–Amendment 66 only garnered 35.54%, and Prop 103 36.3%. Everything short of a win is of course a loss, and we’re not trying to sugar coat this undeniable defeat, but comparing the outcome of Proposition CC to these previous measures shouldn’t leave proponents entirely hopeless.

It is clear, however, that TABOR reform proponents need to recalibrate their game for future elections–and be ready for misinformation that might seem outlandish at first but in the end was persuasive with low-information voters. Prop CC’s opponents deliberately sought to mislead voters about what kinds of “tax refunds” would be affected by the measure. Numerous ads against Proposition CC warned that voters would “sign away their tax refunds” with no distinction between TABOR rebates, which are infrequent and based on the total state revenue exceeding TABOR’s revenue growth cap, and the vastly more common income tax overpayment refunds that most voters are familiar with.

On the other side, the thinktank-driven campaign to pass Proposition CC was overrun by an opposition campaign relying on a single-sentence falsehood to induce “no” votes. It’s not our purpose here today to beat up Prop CC’s proponents, since in historical context they didn’t do that badly. But the Yes on CC’s reliance on dense technical bullet points to sell the Proposition to voters was ineffective against an easy-to-comprehend false argument from opponents. It may also be found in the post-mortem that leading off the ballot language with the words “without raising taxes” was a strategic mistake as well, even though it’s a perfectly defensible statement since tax rates under the measure would not have increased. In the back-and-forth of accusations between the sides, though, opponents were able to successfully cast this as deceptive and rebut the charge that they themselves were misleading voters far more egregiously.

In the 2018 elections, a tax increase measure for roads, Proposition 110, failed with only 40% of the vote–in the same election that Colorado Democrats triumphed at every level with the biggest electoral gains since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The one thing we can say confidently today is that Republican candidates have an established record of being totally unable to capitalize on TABOR ballot measure wins. Understanding this sometimes-confusing dynamic in Colorado politics takes more than any one election, but yesterday’s outcome didn’t change it.

Colorado voters want what Democrats have to offer. They just don’t want to pay for it.

And that is where the next debate over TABOR will begin.

47 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    These off-off year elections  , with neither presidential or state offfices on the ballot, are low turnout and dominated by olfder, anti-tax voters.  Tabor reform is much more likely in a presidential year, with a bluer electorate.   I warned about this in the beginning, and, sadly, was right.

  2. RepealAndReplace says:

    This got me thinking about Referenda C and D back in 2005.

    "C" narrowly passed but had significant support from establishment Republicans (i.e., Bill Owens, Bob Beauprez). The Doug Bruce wing of the GOP was, as usual, foaming at the mouth with chants of, "It's your dough. Just vote 'No'!" Beauprez, of course, paid a hefty price one year later when he performed his rather klutzy pirouette and was forever thereafter known as Both Ways Bob on taxes.

    Moral of the story:  Dems need to get some buy-in from the few remaining non-insane Republicans on these issues. I don't know where you find any. There are none left in the legislature since Dan Thurow left. CHB, Republican36, any suggestions?

    The unaffiliated voters in Colorado maybe okay with electing Democrats to state and federal office, but they are still tightwads when it comes to spending any money, even on stuff from which they directly benefit.

    • unnamed says:

      With Beauprez, it depended on the day.  I think he came out against it in the end.  Hence the genesis of "Both Ways Bob".  

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        "there are none left (non-insane Republicans) in the legislature since Dan Thurow left…….."  What about common sense conservatives like Senators Bob Rankin and Kevin Priola?

        For the record, I voted against CC and for DD. The difference is in how the two were written. DD was very specific on where the money would come from and on how it would be spent. CC was pretty vague and wide open on how the money would be spent and on how it would be accounted for.  CC proponents talked about an annual audit. So what? Audits can be ignored. CC also suffered from way too broad of a reach and perspective.

        A ballot initiative for roads alone; properly packaged, and with answers ready for when the Jon Caldara types of our state whine about "you should be taking money out of the existing budget;" could pass, I think.

        Raising money for K-12 education, at least state wide, has a bad rap. There's too much phony "do it for the kids" and not enough specifics on what the money would be spent on, when, for how long, etc. The "bad rap" is that K-12 is like a black hole. No matter how much money gets put in, school administrators and teachers unions want more, more, more.

        Perhaps a good solution is to re-visit the original Prop. C to see what worked for that. Among other things, I think it had a sunset date.

        Another possibility is to have somebody different pushing the increase. Pols mentioned Amendment 66 and Prop. 103 regarding K-12, etc. My first reaction for both of those was something like: “here come the crazy liberals again, dreaming up creative ways to spend other people’s money,” with a healthy dose of “trust us, we know what we’re doing.”

        • MADCO says:

          "…roads alone; properly packaged, and with answers ready…"
          Would still not pass.

          How abut we buy back the toll roads we've sold to private equity?

        • RepealAndReplace says:

          Is Rankin the guy who replaced Randy "the Stache" Baumgartner? Rankin isn't bad for a Republican.

          Priola is term-limited and I wouldn't trust him.

          It is pretty clear that if the proponents put something forward that is clear cut as to from where the money comes to where it goes, and if it is not some grandiose scheme, it has a much better chance of passing than a blank check does.

          Also, if the measure has a sunset provisions – which can be extended – it’s also more like to pass than something with eternal life.

        • kwtree says:

          With all due respect, CHB, you can take your “K12 is like a black hole” schtick and schtick it in the handiest black hole. 

          I’m substitute teaching in Jeffco schools. The elementary school I worked in yesterday was built in the 60s. The puke-green carpet was new in the 80s. To turn on the heat in the classroom, one has to lie down on this carpet, reach underneath the wall heater, and turn the switch. The kids are high-need, high-energy, high potential but low achievement working class white, brown, and black children. Every year, about 1/10 of their class hours will be taken up by standardized test prep and testing. 

          For being responsible for the lives, education, and safety of 30 other people’s children, I am paid $12.50 an hour- slightly less than the starting wage at Target or Good Times Burgers. They like to hire retirees because it’s a great reason to pay starvation wages- after all, retirees are all rich, just moonlighting on their luxurious pensions- just ask V. 

          Colorado is 39th in the United #States on per-capita student spending- and we do make those resources stretch pretty far- mostly by requiring teachers to pay all extras (incentives, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, bandaids) out of their own pockets. It’s also 30th in teacher pay, with some districts much lower than that. 

          I agree that education funding often goes to the overstuffed top layer- administrative salaries and magic-bullet promising curriculum consultants. But I don’t think you’d part with a nickel to bring up teacher pay- complaining about educational black holes is just too much fun. 

          • NotHopeful says:

            I agree that there are some funding problems for Colorado schools. That's hard to dispute and I wouldn't try. However, finances are definitely not the only problem our schools have and, from where I sit, not even the most pressing problem.

            Administrators don't actually care that much about academics.

            * Grades are inflated across the board, teachers are actively discouraged from giving kids Fs (even when the students do not do any work or very little work or have shown basically no mastery of academic content),  there are too many astonishingly lenient "credit recovery" programs for high school students and way, way too much social promotion of students going on in grades K-8

            * Behaviors are not addressed (especially in urban schools, where the hand-wringing over suspensions and expulsions means that basically anything goes)

            * Textbooks are not even used in many classrooms because of some weird idea that they are not useful (not because there's no money)

            * State-mandated tests do not affect student marks, promotion to the next grade, or graduation and, as an inevitable result, few students care enough about them to put much effort into them

            * Schools continue to stick to the "seat time" model of determining proficiency, which means that kids who want to learn more and faster are prevented from doing so and kids who are ambivalent about learning or who don't care much about learning are moved along just because they came to school

            * Technology is still woefully absent in the classroom

            * Libraries have been removed from schools, which means that schools are actually discouraging reading and literacy and depriving students of the help of librarians, who help kids to learn how to learn

            * Special education is a complete disaster, as the model requiring all SPED students to be placed in general education classrooms results in students who are able to move at the appropriate pace are deprived of the opportunity to learn in the way that works for them and distracting and often disruptive behaviors are the norm in the classroom

            * Art and music programs have been gutted so that school district bureaucracies can continue to be over-inflated

            * There are far too many administrators and other staff members in district offices, costing money that could actually benefit students if it was used to hire teachers, fix buildings, buy technology, provide libraries, and expand class options

            * Schools and school districts and administrators have no idea what their mission is, as they bounce back and forth between the current education school "idea of the moment" and the next, and point too readily to education research (which is basically useless since it adheres to no statistical reliability and does not even pretend to be based on science)

            With all of that in mind, even I – a parent and a former teacher – generally regard school district asks for more money with a very skeptical eye. 

            • Duke Cox says:

              I spent a year or so teaching in Dist.RE-1j in Montrose in the early 1970s. A school without a library? That's hard to sell to an old tmer like me.

              The twin demons of stingy tax-payers and misguided administrators have bedeviled education,and teachers specifically, for a very long time. It seems to me a movement started in the eighties that moved deliberately and swiftly against public schools. When "Conservatives" found out they could finagle taxpayer dollars for their Chrisrian madrassas…Katy, bar the door.

              Or did I miss somthing?

              • Conserv. Head Banger says:

                You haven't missed much. The author of this book had a three page summary in the October 1 issue of the Washington Spectator. Anne Nelson's "Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right." It's on my acquisition list next time I get a Barnes & Noble coupon. I don't think we're talking traditional conservatives here.

          • Conserv. Head Banger says:

            And just whose problem is that, MJ/kwtree? You just got here after being gone for years. Let me take you back to 2004 when Jefferson County voters passed a mill levy increase and new bonds based on "do it for the kids." Instead of fixing a perfectly good elementary/secondary school complex on South Wright St. that needed some repairs, the illustrious school board leveled an entire building and erected a new monument to ego. A good building housing Golden High School was also leveled.

            Stop pointing fingers at "stingy taxpayers" and start pointing your fingers at school board members and administrators who can't budget worth a damn; and administrators who pay themselves sky high salaries. Maybe next time, you and your friends can come up with a proposal that actually does something instead of being an open-ended grab for dollars, like CC, with limited or no accountability.

            I found Susan Miller's campaign for school board to be enlightening. No right wing baloney. No bleeding heart liberalism. Just common sense. Perhaps you might read her positions and tell us how paying teachers more money will improve test score and benchmark performance, especially for lower income kids. Maybe pay for performance isn't such a bad idea after all.


        • NotHopeful says:

          You have a point about specificity.

          Telling me that revenues will go for "transportation" is not enough. I want to know that a specific amount is set aside, by law, for bike lanes, for maintenance, and for mass transit. I don't actually think that the Front Range needs more wide freeways. That will just draw more traffic. 

          Schools? Please. Funding is not the reason our public schools, especially in urban areas, are woeful. It's because the administrators who run schools and the school boards really don't have any idea of what they are doing. For all intents and purposes, none of them care about academics. They care about test scores, keeping the budget growing, hiring more bureaucrats, and pretending that everything is fine in the buildings and classrooms even though they all know it's not. Force school districts and school administrators to do some common sense things, like requiring students to show proficiency in state standards on a mandatory end-of-year test before moving to the next grade and requiring high school seniors to pass a comprehensive proficiency exam with a high score to get a diploma, and end grade inflation and we can talk about money.

          I voted for CC because I hate TABOR, which is a colossally stupid way to run fiscal policy. But I'm under no illusion at all that more money will make our transportation system responsive to the imperative of getting cars off the road or our schools to actually function as places of education. Nor are many other Coloradans.


  3. DavidThi808 says:

    If you're explaining, you're losing. They've got to market it a lot better.

  4. doremi says:

    It's my understanding that the Tabor requires odd year votes on taxes and that the ballot language is also required by Tabor.

    Tax Cheat Doug Bruce's unfortunate TABOR continues to paralyze our state.

    • OrangeFree says:

      (3) Election provisions.(a) Ballot issues shall be decided in a state general election, biennial local district election, or on the first Tuesday in November of odd-numbered years.

      These types of things can be on general election ballots, but they never are because it would drive up turnout for Republicans. But going the odd-year route means low turnout of Democrats. It’s a Catch-22.

  5. "Without raising taxes" is standardized language. Not sure if it's also statutory, but see e.g. the Boulder measure to transfer the current 1.5% transportation tax (expiring soon) to open space, which says the same thing.

    It's probably TABOR language: it's a tax measure, but doesn't raise rates, hence it belongs on the off-year ballot but isn't a tax increase. Voters don't know that very technical distinction (we don't, either), which proves the falsity of the NO campaign.

  6. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Moderatus: Douglas Bruce is an insult to one's intelligence, but I digress.

    "Without raising taxes" wasn't necessarily a lie, at least for me. Most years, I do not get a state tax refund because I try to keep as much of my money in my own pocket as possible, as any competent conservative should be doing.

    Which means that I don't overpay as I go along through the year. So, the state keeping my non-existent refund, or a small refund of a few dollars, would not be a big deal. As I've already noted, I voted against CC for other reasons.

    • unnamed says:

      Doug Bruce is an insult to humanity.  

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        To borrow Donald Trump's term of endearment for some:  "Human scum."

      • Moderatus says:

        Why? Because he passed a ballot measure you don't like? Democrats claim to be against hate but you're so willing to demonize anyone who dares to cross you. You're the real haters when it comes down to it.

        • Conserv. Head Banger says:

          Moderatus: I'll offer that TABOR represents bad government. I disagree with Mr. Bruce on other grounds: convicted felon, slum landlord, kicking a photographer when he was in the legislature. Need I go on?

          By the way, Moderatus, I’m not a Democrat; still a registered Republican.

        • unnamed says:

          OK Boomer.  TABOR is the only reason to dislike Doug Bruce.  Not playing hookie when he was appointed to the legislature, or kicking a reporter, or being a tax cheat.  

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      Any Tabor refund, in any given year, has almost nothing, as in “zero,” to do with how much, or how little, you or anyone personally pays or overpays on their income taxes.

      It’s total state revenues, all sources (except for “fees”) versus allowed budget, adjusted by the cretin’s formula for population growth and inflation.

      CC was honestly not about raising taxes. Whether or not you, or anyone receives your $27 Tabor refund is not related to whether you over-, or under-, withheld on your income taxes. Fluffy’s as much of a liar, as Felonius Bruce — Bruce is evil, Fluffy is banal and exceedingly willfully ignorant.

  7. Tothebarricades says:

    Colorado Democrats need to rethink their whole strategy with overturning TABOR. Enough with the good government, Bell Policy Center hand wringing. Middle class voters feel under siege and will oppose anything they think costs them money. The reality is that TABOR, by forbidding a progressive state income tax, has shifted the tax burden in Colorado to middle and lower-income voters. That's because the state sales tax is regressive and most state revenue comes from those two sources.

    The proposal should be to hike the income tax on millionaires and billionaires, who now pay less of the their income in taxes than the rest of us! Poll after poll shows that even Republicans believe the rich don't pay their fair share in taxes. How about an ad campaign that says its time to make billionaires in Colorado pay their fair share? Where is the outrage over the shifting of the tax burden on to the middle class?

    I'm tired of Democrats being so timid and ignoring the obvious war on the middle class that is at the heart of TABOR. 

    • Moderatus says:

      Your solution sounds a lot like class warfare. Coloradans don't like socialist hate tactics against people whose only crime is being successful!

      • unnamed says:

        OK Boomer.

        Because being born on third base and having dimwits like you treat them like they hit a triple makes them successful.  That's why my taxes should go up $906.68 for 2018, so billionaires can get a free ride.

        • Duke Cox says:

          You are completely correct, unnamed.

          I have known, and worked for some very wealthy people. They do not see the world like those of us who struggle to make ends meet. Most of them had a helping hand from the start and they simply are used to having their way.

          Of course, Horatio Alger stories aren't hard to find, but for the vast majority, we will never get too far out of the world we are now living on. The problem is money and the people who adore it. I like money….but to some, it is the most important factor in every decision

          We, as American voters, have dropped the ball. Our government is corruped by money…and influence. We turned our attention to entertainment and forgot it is our job as citizens to protect our democracy. It has been supplanted by the wealthy. We now live in a functional oligarchy, teetering on the brink of autocracy. 

          The OD and his hatred driven administration have set an example for all good "conservatives" and followers of Prosperity Jesus.

          • Conserv. Head Banger says:

            Trump is not a conservative. He is an opportunistic grifter and con man who sold desperate people a bill of goods. True conservatism began to die in the 1980s and '90s with the rise of Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich. 

      • MichaelBowman says:

        Says the dude who hates government while simultaneously sucking on its teat. 

        • Wong21fr says:

          Self-loathing is sometimes a turn-on.  He probably asks to get spanked while being called a worthless government leach.

          Hell, he's probably doing it at work.

          • unnamed says:

            With a copy of Forbes magazine with Trump on the cover.

            • MichaelBowman says:

              Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Who doesn't want to be like Fluffy’s lord and savior David Dennison???

              Stormy Daniels Once Claimed She Spanked Donald Trump With a Forbes Magazine

              Slate’s Jacob Weisberg reported that in 2016, Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, told him that in 2006 she and Trump began a sexual relationship that lasted nearly a year. The Daily Beast published a story citing friends of Daniels saying she had told them about a fling with Trump. In Touch published an interview with Daniels from 2011 in which she herself described having a sexual affair with Trump. And Mother Jones has learned that Daniels years earlier talked about having had a sexual relationship with Trump—and in lurid detail. According to 2009 emails between political operatives who were at the time advising Daniels on a possible political campaign, the adult film actor and director claimed that her affair with Trump included an unusual act: spanking him with a copy of Forbes magazine. 

  8. NotHopeful says:

    Why the Democratic legislature thought that an off-year election was the time for this proposal is a mystery to me.

    Turnout was, as expected, low. If on the ballot next November, I think there is at least a reasonable likelihood that the measure might have passed. 

    Off-year elections are dumb. They are used to keep turnout low. That's why cities and towns use them for city councils and school boards use them. They don't want the public participating.

    Word to the wise, Dems: If referring something to the ballot, always make sure it is voted on in even-numbered years!

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