Tax Hike Proposals: Politics 101

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An RTD light rail train (credit: CBS)

An RTD light rail train (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Politics can be a complicated subject. There are some political situations that play out like a three dimensional chess game where three boards are played simultaneously, all affecting each other in intricate ways.

Then again, some political situations are very basic and simple.

Proposed tax hike ideas in 2011, although written in a complicated manner, are very simple, politically. That’s a lesson that RTD and the Colorado Center for Law and Policy learned this week.

While the details differ, both organizations discovered that citizens still reeling from a record-setting recession are not likely to support a tax hike, even if it goes toward a good idea or cause.

It’s hard to arrive at a more heartstring tugging motive than educating our children, but even a tax hike for that issue seems to be going nowhere.

With this being a fairly basic and simple idea to grasp, what made both of these organizations, and what continues to make State Senator Rollie Heath think that voters would have supported tax increases this year?

Besides optimism, I think these organizations realize that Coloradans are a reasonable bunch and have supported tax increases before, for the right reason. And if you are convinced that you represent the “right reason”, even a recession won’t slow you down.

However, Coloradans need more than a right reason to go for a tax increase. They also need to see coalitions. Most of the recent big-picture tax increase proposals that have been passed by Colorado voters didn’t represent one group; they were backed by large coalitions.

It seems that the Colorado Center for Law and Policy grasps this idea since they referenced that they thought a larger coalition would coalesce around their tax increase proposals. Unfortunately for them, the only large coalition that formed surrounding their tax increase ideas was a coalition to fight them.

What the CCLP found was that building a coalition is something much easier said than done. And something like a tax increase needs a major coalition. They saw the problem and pulled their ideas off the table. RTD is likely to recognize the same problem and officially delay the vote on an increase for Fastracks funding as well.

It seems that the only person in the room that isn’t getting this very basic and simple Colorado political lesson is State Senator Rollie Heath. He is still vowing to move forward with his tax hike proposal. In fact, Heath has now said is he considering changing the proposal from a temporary tax hike to a permanent one.

While it may look like Heath is ignoring a basic political principle here, I think he’s too smart for that. Sometimes you fight a hopeless fight in the present as part of a larger fight down the road. To me, it’s more likely that Heath is simply flushing out the competition and seeing who is formally lining up against his idea before he really gathers his strength next year.

Heath has been around the block more than a couple of times and no one with his amount of experience would set themselves on such a quixotic quest without an ulterior motive. Maybe I am over thinking it, but to ignore something so simple usually means something much more complicated is going on.

But it is entertaining and interesting to see how different people respond to the most basic of political lessons. Some learn from it quickly, and some may use it as a part of a much larger scheme.

With no major statewide offices up for election in 2012, all of this may end up being just a fun preamble to a much more entertaining and interesting election just a mere 19 months away. We’ll have to wait and see.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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