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The Possible Decision behind the Indecision

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Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The Denver Post reported this week that Governor John Hickenlooper is still undecided if he will throw his backing behind the School Finance Act tax measure. The School Finance Act will be on this November’s ballot, asking Colorado voters to approve a $1.1 billion dollar tax increase to fund a major overhaul of the education funding system in Colorado.

At first blush, it may seem odd to see Governor Hickenlooper on the fence about this issue. The School Finance Act was one of the key pieces of legislation passed in this year’s legislature for Democrats. For Governor Hickenlooper to not throw his support behind it would leave his Democratic legislative colleagues on a distant and weak political limb.

So, if it doesn’t make sense for the Governor to leave his colleagues hanging a little over four months before the election, why would the Governor be withholding his support?

I believe the key behind his indecision is his desire to be a key part of the decision on exactly how the tax mechanism will work.

Yes the tax mechanism, simultaneously the most boring and the most important aspect of the School Finance Act, and it is currently a key part of the situation that has yet to be decided.

The content of the School Finance Act, how the $1.1 billion dollars will be spent on education in Colorado is already in stone. However, supporters have yet to decide exactly how they want to raise the $1.1 billion.

There are various ways the taxing mechanism can work. It can go through property taxes or income taxes or even sales taxes. Frankly, there are too many options to mention here without making this blog entry a prescription sleep aid.

But, I am certain that there is a tax mechanism that Governor Hickenlooper would prefer to see implemented. And while he can choose to sit back and wait for the decision to be made without him, by telling a reporter that he has yet to decide to back the measure, he is actively saying he wants his preferred mechanism to be chosen.

I imagine that the first thing that key supporters of the School Finance Act did after they heard about the Governor’s interview was to contact the Governor and find out what it would take to garner his support. I also imagine at this point, they know what mechanism he prefers.

There may be those that believe that the Governor is simply being prudent about his decision to support the measure by waiting until the mechanism is decided and that he has no interest in deciding the mechanism.

However, if that is true, the Governor is needlessly jeopardizing the success of the School Finance Act merely to look prudent. As a Democratic governor, it is in his best interest for the ballot measure to pass, so there is no reason to jeopardize its success.
It seems to me that if you are going to make your opinion public on such a critical issue to your own party, it better be for a good reason. A display of prudence is not a good reason, but wanting to decide the final tax mechanism is a very good reason.

If the tax mechanism is not something the Governor can actively defend, the entire campaign falls apart. If he can support it from the beginning, the measure has a much better chance of passing.

As always, I could be dead wrong about this. However, it seems silly to me that the Governor would voice an opinion for no good reason. Only foolish politicians don’t have a reason for everything they say.

The Governor has been accused of being a lot things, but a foolish politician has never been one of them.

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 on Colorado Public Television.

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