At Large

Secession and Tax Hikes

Both go down hard in voting among Coloradans.

By 11.6.13


Much of the out-of-state attention paid to Colorado in Tuesday night’s elections was in regard to the fundamentally unserious ballot measures in 11 counties to secede from the state and createNorth Colorado. To be more precise: The fact that the votes are happening represents a most serious message from the citizens of rural and oil-rich parts of the state to the petty tyrants in Denver and their mindless supporters in Boulder and Aspen. But there was and is no way that the 51st state will come into creation this way.

Still, let’s mention the results:

With most of the votes counted in the relevant counties, five of the 11 counties supported secession. However, all that really matters in this discussion is that Weld County, home to what would be over 70 percent of the population of the proposed new state, gave the measure a resounding “no” vote, with approximately 58 percent voting against secession versus 42 percent supporting.

So now we can move on to the important elections.

While some may have been distracted by secession, Colorado was in fact the site of two of the most important elections in the country—actually five elections, as I’ll explain in a moment.

First, the biggest proposed tax hike in the history of Colorado, nearly $1 billion annually, failed by a 2-to-1 margin. This despite spending of nearly $10 million—including $1 million incinerated in the closing days of the campaign by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who seems to enjoy losing in this state—to sell the measure. Amendment 66 was beaten by an even wider margin than a similarly marketed (“for the children”) tax hike of two years ago, though 2011’s Proposition 103 was only about half the size in terms of proposed revenue.

Amendment 66 was not only a tax hike, but it would have taken the state from having a single income tax rate to having two income tax rates, an invitation for future populist “soak the rich” moves that would further damage Colorado’s already declining reputation as a good place to open or start a business.

It bears repeating: The unions and a few crony capitalist corporations in favor spent $10 million. Opponents, led primarily by the Independence Institute, probably spent somewhere in the area of $200,000. Pro-66 ads blanketed the airwaves, with pleasant-looking women cooing about how great it would be for our children. All for naught. Bloomberg and friends outspent the good guys by as much as 50 to 1, just to learn again that their New York money can’t buy Colorado elections.

The other important elections, which also received attention and money from out of state, were a series of four races for the Douglas County School Board.

Again, the unions dumped in money, including a slug of a quarter million dollars in the closing days of the campaign, trying to unseat two incumbents and win two open seats on a school board that has been making some of the most aggressive pro-student and anti-union reforms in the nation, including instituting vouchers (the program is still tied up in legal challenges, though the highest court to hear the case so far has ruled for the school board), paying based on merit, and curbing certain collective bargaining rights for teachers.

Nevertheless, with a stunning 46 percent of the county’s “active” registered voters participating in the election, all four pro-reform (i.e. pro-child, anti-union) candidates won.

I think I’m going to consider moving to Douglas County.

The defeat of the enormous tax hike and of the union-backed anti-reform Douglas County school board candidates have important implications for the Colorado governor’s race in 2014, where incumbent Mayor John “You believed I was a moderate?!?” Hickenlooper will be up for re-election after having signed very unpopular gun restrictions and a bill that raises electricity prices in rural Colorado, having given a reprieve to a man who murdered four people in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, and now having backed the biggest tax hike in the state’s history—only to see it massively defeated.

I believe, though I may just be naively hoping, that just as Colorado has been a fairly accurate measure of the country’s mood and direction in recent years, tonight’s strong pro-liberty and essentially pro-Republican results bode well for limited government in the 2014 elections.

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About the Author
Ross Kaminsky is a mostly-libertarian self-employed trader and investor and is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. He is the host of “The Ross Kaminsky Show” on Denver's NewsRadio 850 KOA on Saturday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.