We discussed some of the ins and outs of the Referenda C&D debate on Saturday, and some of you who oppose the measure took issue with our analysis that calling it a "tax increase" was inaccurate. We said on Saturday that calling C&D a tax increase is a good political move, but that doesn't make it truthful. On Sunday, The Denver Post took a look at that very question:
There was an interesting exchange a couple of weeks ago between Gov. Bill Owens and former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey over what constitutes a tax increase. Armey...argued that it's a tax increase if the government spends more taxpayer money than it did before.
"Anytime myself and my neighbors have less money, and the government has more money, it's a tax increase," Armey said.
Does that mean, Owens asked, that annual increases in the federal budget are tax increases? Yes, said Armey: "Whatever level of spending ... eventually the taxpayers are going to pay for that."
And you never voted for a budget increase? Owens asked, several times. Nary a one, Armey insisted.
"As one of 435 congressmen, you have that ability," Owens said, "but as a governor, I've got to actually make sure that we have a budget in the state of Colorado, and that is a distinction between us."
This brings up a point we made on Saturday. If opponents of C&D get to call it a "tax increase" on the idea that eventually higher taxes might be paid, then why can't supporters of the measure call it a "tax break" because fixing the budget now will save more money in the long run? The answer: neither makes any real sense outside of making a semantic argument.
Take a look at what else The Post had to say for more explanation...
Brad Young, former Republican chairman of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee, makes a similar case when he speaks to groups in support of Referendum C. "If you're paying 5 percent now and 5 percent five years from now, is that a tax increase?" he asks. "People always say no."
Five percent is close to the state's income tax rate. In fact, the rate has been reduced over recent years from 5 percent to 4.63 percent, and the state still is collecting more money than it did when the rate was 5 percent. The reason is that there are more people earning more money - and thus paying more in taxes.
That's why sales tax revenues also increased during the state's boom years. The rate stayed the same, but people were buying more expensive things - and, again, paying more in taxes.
The opponents' labeling of Referendum C as a tax increase turns the English language upside-down.
Again, we're not saying that it's not a good political strategy to call it a "tax increase," because voters really don't understand it anyway. But just because you call a bird a fish doesn't mean it can swim.
Regardless, as we said on Saturday and The Post reiterated on Sunday, the onus is on the C&D supporters:
But devoting too much energy to refuting an absurd argument is not good politics or good marketing. The referendum's supporters risk losing if they are too much on the defensive.
They need to tell people what benefits they'll get if they vote to let the state catch up to pre-recession levels "as revenue naturally flows into our recovering economy," as Owens puts it.