Students Fired Up Over “Beer Money”

As the Boulder Daily Camera reports:

College students – and a youthful political group in their corner – are fuming over an oil lobbyist’s remark that a proposed scholarship fund would amount to “weekend beer money.”

Amendment 58, which has become the costliest campaign issue in the state’s history, would eliminate a tax credit for the oil and gas industry, directing the money raised to a college scholarship fund for Colorado students.

Rick Reiter, an official with Coloradans for a Stable Economy, made the now-controversial comment that appeared in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News. The campaign fighting the amendment has raised $10 million from oil and gas companies and says that the scholarship fund is a faulty solution for fixing higher education’s funding dilemma…

Shad Murib, a New Era Colorado employee and senior studying political science at the University of Colorado, said the comment came across with an elitist tone and lumped students as “drunkards off on vacation for four years.”

“Six thousand dollars may be a weekend worth of beer for an oil lobbyist, but for me and other students around Colorado it’s the difference between going to college or not,” Murib said.

Amendment 58 proponents, including Gov. Bill Ritter, say that scrapping what they describe as an outdated tax credit would generate an extra $320 million, with 60 percent going toward scholarships. Financial aid packages could triple, they say, with students receiving up to $6,000 a year.

New Era Colorado on Tuesday also called on the oil lobby to pull advertisements that they say refer to Colorado students as “special interests.”

Our view: the oil and gas industry opponents of Amendment 58 were on a roll until this idiotic statement, with a deafening multimillion-dollar ad campaign railing against Governor Ritter and their catchy “a tax increase is a tax increase” slogan.

By demeaning college students in this way, the opponents done more than make themselves look like high-handed assholes: they have unwittingly reminded voters who the beneficiaries of Amendment 58 really are–their kids, themselves. And an additional $6,000 would be considerably more helpful to students than “weekend beer money,” especially in a state that ranks 49th in the nation for higher education funding.

If 58’s proponents are smart, they’ll remind Colorado voters of this insult to their intelligence every day until the election.

59 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. redstateblues says:

    Only Republicans could call removing a subsidy for a special interest, given to them by the taxpayers, a tax increase.

  2. DavidThi808 says:

    please go to ColoradoBallot.

    Also, I think Reiter made a very fair comment. $6,000.00 is probably what they spend in a weekend of hookers & blow with the Dept. of the Interior. So to them it is just beer money.

    • Car 31 says:

      Here’s their response on arguments against:

      Arguments Against

      There is a list of arguments against this proposal but they are all such utter self-serving B.S. that I will not repeat them here. It’s all FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt).

      You’ve mentioned this website before and made a disclaimer before.  Either add a disclaimer that this is a partisan look at amendments or stop using them and their language to make your points.

      • Dabee47 says:

        is David’s language.  It’s his site…

      • DavidThi808 says:

        Can you come up with a single truly legit reason to be against this bill?

        • Car 31 says:

          so at the risk of sounding redundant:

          – this was brought forward by a special interest group

          – the benefits of this will go to that special interest group

          – fiscal policy should not be formed by the initiative process

          – voters don’t/won’t understand the impacts of this when voting

          – this changes how severance tax in CO is distributed and that decision should not be the sole decision of higher ed

          – oil and gas money fluctuates and will be gone someday, with it so will scholarships for higher ed

          – local communities on the Western slope should receive the benefits of additional severance tax dollars coming into the state

          – this would distribute 60% of severance tax dollars to higher ed scholarships and only 40% to local communities where major impacts occur

          – additionally, the 40% is further statutorily split to cover wildlife, water and other areas instead of allowing funds to go where they are most needed

          Finally, what makes you think that a teacher at the CO School of Mines is able to reduce the complexities of this issue into a single ballot issue?

          I’m voting no on 58 because I’m tired of ANY special interest trying to circumvent the process and forcing CO to live with their solution.

          • DavidThi808 says:

            But we live in a world where we have TABOR which forces issues like this to the initiative. We have oil companies with so much money to spend protecting their tax breaks that the initiative has to be focused so peopel see a direct return. And yes, for someone in the impacted communities, it’s less to them than they would like.

            But that’s the world as it is. Your criteria would leave us never improving anything because nothing that meets your criteria could ever make it through the system we have today.

            • Car 31 says:

              I wouldn’t have been so harsh before. However, a few days back you made a good point when talking about Amend 51 – Funding for the Disabled.

              This is one small special interest group attempting to set their funding in the at a level they want to see. If this passes we will see 40 groups each with their own initiative in the next election.

              It doesn’t matter how righteous this request is, funding sources and levels are the responsibility of the legislature where they have to make the hard trade-offs between a never ending list of critical needs vs a limited amount of money.

              Allowing special interest groups to do an end-run around these trade-offs with feel-good legislation is a recipe for fiscal disaster [Car31 emphasis].

              What makes Amendment 58 different?  

              • DavidThi808 says:

                I’ll be the first to admit Colorado ballot is “fair & balanced” in the same way Fox is. To be honest, part of it is my opinion. And I wish Ritter had done like Romanoff with SAFE where he did take it through the process and only went the signature route when it became clear that the voters were not there to do something.

                A second large part is that the even if this passes, the oil & gas companies are still paying less than their fair share IMO. So I am in favor of anything that increases their taxes appropiately and assigns them to something that helps the state.

                And finally, just as I view Romanoff’s effort as reasonable for how he tried in the legislature first, I think we should give the governor one each election too for him to create in the manner he chooses.

                So yes, judgement calls and opinion along with the background of each.

  3. Busta6 says:

    sxp151: due to provisions in TABOR, any time the net result is people paying more taxes (even if they were the beneficiary of a tax credit or loophole) then the ballot language must say its a tax increase. Philosophically, this depends on where you stand. I believe its closing a tax loophole.

    I wasn’t terribly thrilled when Ritter rushed this through–though his intentions were noble–and I still don’t feel this will pass. HOWEVER, statements by the No on 58 folks are only helping. These “special interest goodies” are scholarships for college kids, renewable energy projects, and money for impacted communities for water quality projects and transportation needs.

    I find it insulting that my two siblings who are in college are considered a “special interest” while the deep-pocketed industry funding the ads is the very definition of “special interest.”

    • sxp151 says:

      If they have to buy ads on TV to get you to agree with them, they’re a special interest. If they don’t have any money to buy ads on TV, they’re probably not.

    • Car 31 says:

      A special interest got this on the ballot in the first place – higher ed.

      No one wants to argue against higher ed because in CO we suck at funding higher ed and they are ‘forced’ to find funding in other ways.

      Everyone wants to rail against oil and gas these days, especially since the industry is so easy to attack with pithy lines about hookers and blow.

      Amendment 58 devotes oil and gas revenue to educational scholarships. As I’ve said before, IMO this is a bad idea. It is also a money grab for higher ed.

      Currently water projects, wildlife habitat, and most importantly local community impact funding will change because of the new formula in the Amendment. That is NOT good.

      Oil/Gas need to pay their fair share but the lion’s share should go to communities impacted not to students in Denver.

      • redstateblues says:

        It goes to community colleges all over the state.

        • Car 31 says:

          and community colleges are great institutions that got hosed under TABOR spending restrictions. But the majority of community colleges are along the Front Range and the majority of scholarships will go to the Front Range.

          Not much oil and gas development going on along the Front Range.

          Oil and gas money, with boom and bust cycles should not fund students’ scholarships.  

          Short-sighted fiscal fixes don’t help this state and I’m tired of groups proposing them.

      • bob ewegen says:

        the arrogant prick community, Car 31.  Indisputably, amendment 58 is a tax increase.  That doesn’t make it good or bad.  But if a change in the law means you pay higher taxes, it is a tax increase, comprende, politicos?

        • redstateblues says:

          Getting rid of an outdated tax credit is a tax increase? Who’s paying the increase?

          I’m not necessarily in favor of this amendment, I’m just confused.

          • bob ewegen says:

            If your income tax liability is $10,000 but you get a credit of $1,000 for each of your two children, you pay $8,000.  If I eliminate that “outdated tax credit” then you pay $10,000, a $2,000 tax increase.  

            Linguistic games don’t change the arithmetic.  This may be the most righteous $321 million a year tax increase in the history of the universe or the most evil, job killing, tax increase since the American League destroyed Western Civilization by passing the designated hitter rule. But there is absolutely no question that it is a tax increase. Mathematics is a science quite independent of political spin games.

            • redstateblues says:

              between taxes on industries and taxes on individuals?

              • bob ewegen says:

                A tax on individuals is paid by individuals. A tax on industry is paid by industry, which may or may not succeed in passing that tax on to consumers, depending on many factors.  What does that have to do with your apparent belief that a tax increase is not a tax increase. Are you next going to argue that a football is not a football? Or that a square is not a rectangle? This isn’t like you, redstateblues.

                • redstateblues says:

                  My comment at the top of this page was more due to my lack of knowledge than stubbornness. I tend to give the Governor the benefit of the doubt over the oil industry 527s. His ad said it’s not a tax increase.

            • sxp151 says:

              But TABOR has forced us to call e.g. the elimination of a temporary tax credit a “tax increase” to try and prevent it from passing. All it’s done is confuse the language of many ballot initiatives, but that was kind of the point.

              In exactly the same way, from the other side, people will sometimes say a failure to increase spending on a program to adjust for inflation is a “program cut.”

              As for mathematics, it doesn’t really want to get involved in whether something is a “tax increase” or not. It’s kind of happy there in the corner just making sure 1+1 is still 2.

              • bob ewegen says:

                Don’t tell me you’re going the home schooling route, sxp?  X plus $321 million is greater than X. The difference is a tax increase of $321. The point cannot be disputed, though the merit or lack thereof of such a tax increase is debateable.  

                • Haywood JBM says:

                  that if the Oil and Gas industry has to pay an additional 300 MM in taxes each year, who  in their right mind doesn’t think that that the additional costs won’t get passed on to the consumer?

                  it may be a “tax increase” on business, but ultimately the people paying for it will be the consumers.

                  For some reason I highly doubt that the oil and gas companies will decide that they want to eat away their profit margins.

                  • redstateblues says:

                    with the development of the Roan though?

                  • sxp151 says:

                    Although recent events have shown that the price of gas is rather inelastic, if it goes too high people will start taking public transportation, buying new fuel-efficient cars, or moving to places with shorter commutes.

                    In addition, corporate taxes are generally taken on PROFITS, not REVENUES, meaning that as long as a company is still maximizing profits at a particular price, there’s no motivation for them to change the price. In theory, if the oil company changes its prices in any way up or down, profits will decrease. So a tax on profits doesn’t change the supply-demand curve.

                    Of course, conservative economists are now clamoring for a bailout to prevent any stock from ever decreasing in price, so maybe they’ve thrown out supply and demand as well.

                    • bob ewegen says:

                      in a regulated monopoly situationlike XCEL, the puc automatically passes all taxes on to consumers. In the case of natural gas, whole prices are set on a world stage and Colorado’s share is too small to significantly impact the market. In that case, it would be hard for producers to pass the tax onto the market. In theory, it might make them less likely to open future wells here since their profits are going to be smaller.  By somewhat reducing the supply of gas in the local market, it might cause rates to inch upward. But if you’ve seen the gyrations in your XCEL bill on the energy cost adjustment, I doubt very much that the long-term effect in the severance tax would seriously affect consumers.  Wyoming’s tax is higher than ours even if 58 passes and the industry is going like gangbusters there.  

                  • ardy39 says:

                    Since ~2/3 of the gas produced in Colorado leaves the state, if the “tax increase” gets passed on to consumers, then ~2/3 of that “tax increase” will be paid by consumers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, etc.

                    Isn’t it fair to allow these out-of-state consumers to help pay for the damages done in Colorado to provide them with natural gas?

                    • bob ewegen says:

                      A fair tax is one that you pay, an unfair tax is one I pay.  The laws of economics don’t give a damn and whether the tax increase will be passed on to consumers and if those consumers are here or in tanganyika, is utterly the result of market conditions.  (and, to a minor degree, regulatory bodies like the PUC.)  

                    • ardy39 says:

                      that you missed the sarchasm*, Bob.

                      *(This is an intentional misspelling. No corrections from the monkey gallery needed.)

                • sxp151 says:

                  Nobody’s arguing that taxes won’t go up over what they would have been, whether that’s due to a “tax increase” (which connotes something that was never done before) or a “subsidy elimination” (which connotes a restoration).

                  But it’s a linguistic issue, not a mathematical issue.

                  There was an old poll done asking people whether they want more money spent on “welfare” or whether they want more money spent on “aid to poor people.” It’s the same thing, but people asked about the former tended to say “no” and people asked about the latter tended to say “yes.”

                  More recently, there was a wild swing in polls over the Wall Street bailout depending on language. See here for details.

                  If it’s important for you to call it a “tax increase,” fine, it is, I admit it, that’s what’s on the ballot. But don’t imagine the phrase has no political connotations.

                  • bob ewegen says:

                    If our existing 1 percent sales tax raises a million dollars in 1990 and $2 million in 2000, that is not a tax increase. It is simply revenue growth resulting from the existing tax spread across a larger economy. But if I increase the rate to 2 percent, it’s a tax increase.  If I eliminate an exsisting sales exemption for groceries and drugs and raise another $1 million, it’s also a tax increase. Arguing that a tax increase isn’t a tax increase isn’t linguistics, it’s what George Orwell called “doublespeak.” Of course it has political connotations, just like calling a scrapping of the Bill of Rights a “War on terror” does. But facts are facts and tax increases are tax increases. With or without TABOR, the legislative council would have called this a tax increase because, duh, it’s a tax increase.  

                • We'veBeenHad says:

                  Do you think that allowing them to lapse is a tax increase?

                • We'veBeenHad says:

                  Do you think that allowing them to lapse is a tax increase?

                  • bob ewegen says:

                    In that case, it all depends on what you choose as a baseline. Without doubt, letting the temporary tax cuts expire produces a revenue increase.  I wouldn’t call it a tax RATE increase. But if I had permanently lowered the top rate from 40 to 35 pct and raised it back to 40, even one year later, I would call it a tax increase. To me, a temporary tax cut, billed as temporary, even one scheduled to last ten years, is not a tax increase if it is allowed to expire. But I will concede in this case, the difference may be semantic.  But I was there in 1977 when they wrote the existing severance tax law. We had no state severance tax thing and the 1977 law, even with the property tax credit, was clearly a new tax. Nothing was ever said about making the property tax offset “temporary” and that language is nowhere in the law. Amendment 58 is thus, indisputably, a tax increase.

                    Conversely, consider the estate tax. It’s supposed to drop gradually, then go away completely in (I forget the year but think its 2010) then come back in full force in 2011 at 55 percent!  I dont know what to call that, though the word “stupidity” comes trippingly to the tongue.  

  4. redstateblues says:

    David reserves only 58 and 59 as amendments we MUST vote yes on. I greatly respect David, and I think he’s done a good job laying all of these out. I am not convinced on 58 though.

    So it is a tax increase, but is it a bad idea? Voting no on this purely because it’s a tax increase doesn’t make any sense.

    So far Car 31 is the only person I’ve seen who makes a legitimate argument–if you’re going to raise taxes do something that benefits a larger group of people than community college students who live predominantly on the I-25 corridor.

    • bob ewegen says:

      Only that I oppose semantic games.

      I do, however, insist that the designated hitter rule is an abomination crafted by Satan that deserves the scorn and derision of all thinking Americans. Can we at least agree on that?

    • sxp151 says:

      Therefore anything that benefits people will predominantly benefit people there. By itself, that argument doesn’t make sense to me. Unless we want to forcibly repopulate the rest of the state, I think we’re going to have to accept that that’s where all the people are.

      I agree that targeting toward scholarships for community college students, as opposed to a general education budget fund, is unfortunate. On the other hand, I hate oil companies, and I think that’s going to outweigh my concerns on this one.

      • redstateblues says:

        Sure the population distribution heavily favors the I-25 corridor, but that doesn’t mean we should become strict utilitarians when it comes to things that can benefit more than just the majority.

        Rural Colorado needs better infrastructure just as much as us Denver Metro Area residents.

        • sxp151 says:

          If you’re going to benefit all community colleges, and there are community colleges all over the state, it’s still going to end up giving the most to people on the I-25 corridor. It doesn’t just benefit the majority; anyone can find a community college somewhere and attend. It’s just that there are a lot more where, you know, most people live. That solely depends on the population distribution.

  5. Busta6 says:

    Do you think that oil and gas prices in Colorado will rise due to this tax increase? I don’t believe so because those commodities are sold on an international market and our statewide regulatory scheme wont have much of an impact. The springtime increase in gas prices was from a new pipeline taking the gas out of Colorado and taking it to Eastern states.

    Do you not think opposition to A-58 (and support for A-52, which will screw water projects) is anger at the Governor for pursuing oil and gas regulations passed in 2007? I think this is going the direction of discrediting Ritter at all costs.

    And Ritter took the bait.

    • bob ewegen says:

      In theory, part of the tax increase could be passed on to consumers. Given the reality of the world markets setting wholesale prices, the practical impact would be small.  Drive to San Francisco and throw a rock into the Bay. Is that going to raise the sea level on the beaches of Wales? All other factors being equal, the answer is yes, by a trillioneth of an angstrom or so but there are so many other factors it is impossible to speculate with any certaintude.. .

      Obviously, the industry’s fury against 58 is increased by its anxiety overf the new rules and regs. But the industry spent $90 million to beat a similar tax in Californi in 2006.  Spending $20 million here to beat a $321 million tax increase translates into a 1500 percent annual rate of return on your investment.  

      And 52 will indeed screw water projects, which is why Club 20 opposes it.  

  6. DavidThi808 says:

    You are right that the initiative is not perfect. You are right that since most people, and therefore most colleges, are on the front range, a lot of the money goes there. You are right that the impacted communities could use more help.

    But the choice is not between this initiative and a perfect initiative. The choice is between this initiative and nothing. And given that trade-off, I think this is a clear Yes.

    And say you can get your perfect initiative in 2 years. There will be others here saying that is not perfect, they prefer this one – and they vote no. Politics is the art of the possible. This is a good bill that will make this state prepared for the future.

    • Car 31 says:

      there is no perfect initiative.  I’m involved in policy making on the inside so that makes me admittedly biased. But I think you’re making an assumption that this is the only way, and that is wrong.

      There were people smarter than you and I combined who battled with what to do about federal mineral lease monies last year.  It was heated and intense and a decent solution was hammered out – you know why? – everyone was at the table.

      Who was at the table when higher ed decided they needed more money?  You know why they chose severance tax? FML was reallocted last year, severance tax is TABOR exempt and there’s a lot of it (for now), and the industry loophole already existed so they could say, “vote for the kids!”.

      Here’s an better idea.

      How about the Governor uses some of his political capital to introduce a bill that has been vetted by the stakeholders to close the loophole and allocate this new revenue in a responsible way so all benefit.

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