Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The 'low-tax chorus' and its consequences for Colorado

An amusing opinion piece in The Denver Business Journal this week does a great job of pointing out the folly of pursuing lower taxes without regard to anything else. Anything else like, well, quality of life.

The piece is headlined: "Low-tax chorus: Keep fiddling while state burns." Business Journal Editor Neil Westergaard heaps faint praise on state Sen. Mike Kopp, who says a modest proposal to raise state taxes is a threat to economic recovery and would put further stress on families that are already struggling financially.

"Guys like him are making sure Colorado remains one of the lowest taxing states in the union, which we all know fuels fantastic economic development even when roads crumble, schools fall apart and poor people crowd emergency rooms seeking free medical care," Westergaard writes. "Haven’t we seen the benefits of this approach in the last 10 years?"

Westergaard intended that last bit as a rhetorical question, but we'll go ahead and answer it just so there's no doubt. No, absolutely not. We haven't seen the economic benefits of a relentless low-tax approach during the past 10 years. In fact, Colorado has seen the consequences Westergaard points out: crumbling roads and schools, and poor people left without the support they need to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Coloradans deserve a choice of whether to continue down that road. One step in the right direction is being pursued by Sen. Rollie Heath, who's proposing to take state income and sales taxes back to 1999 levels for five years. The money would go to limit further cuts to schools. Check out the details at brightcolorado.com. It's not a permanent fix, but if it gets on the ballot and voters approve it Colorado will have a little breathing room while folks settle on a long-term solution.

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