Craig Editorial Board, Jan. 14, 2009, to April 2009
- Bryce Jacobson, newspaper representative
- Joshua Roberts, newspaper representative
- Collin Smith, newspaper representative
- Marianna Raftopoulos, community representative
- Luke Schafer, community representative
- John Smith, community representative
- Lois Wymore, community representative
Taxpayers must take fair share of blame for state's problems.
It's true what they say.
Our government does not make money. It only gets what we give it.
As the Colorado Legislature begins the long process of balancing declining revenue with soaring costs, as it faces an estimated $600 million deficit, the taxpayers need to make tough choices about just what it is they want.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "I like taxes. With them I buy civilization."
Whether you feel the same as Holmes - or instead you feel bitterness when Uncle Sam takes from your paycheck without asking - his last point is true.
Schools and roads and everything else cost money.
So, where are we now?
Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling. The Colorado Department of Transportation doesn't have the money to maintain what it has, much less improve anything.
Colorado provides less funding to public education than most states in the country, and yet this week Gov. Bill Ritter proposed cutting education expenses by $200 million because the state has no money.
Our need for progress is immediate.
Even in good times, we don't have enough money to pay for our roads or our schools, and never mind health care.
Now, in what we are calling "worse times," we have that much less.
We complain about our government failing us, then we refuse to make anything better by voting down new taxes.
We set up our government to fail.
Our state is suffering, and we are partly to blame. Maybe we're just not ready to use the power given to us by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
Make no mistake, our government deserves our suspicion. The people need more oversight, and the spirit of TABOR is a lofty ambition.
But, when we take the government's fiscal authority for ourselves, we also must acknowledge our responsibility.
It is not OK to refuse our support and then stick our hands out. Each of us needs to take stock of what we want our community to be.
It would be easy to throw our hands up in the air and say Denver gets all the money anyway, so we're not giving anything more to anybody else.
We can do that, as we have for all of recent memory. If that is our answer, though, we must accept that our situation will not improve.
It also would be easy to get bogged down in our ideological differences, but the areas we need to improve are valued by everyone.
We're talking about schools, roads and medicine.
If we won't fund these, we should accept the consequences: low education standards, dangerous highways and unaffordable health care.
The choice to change things is ours, which is a reward of TABOR that we cannot absolve ourselves of now. We cannot insist that the state make do with what it has and expect things to improve.
There just isn't enough money for long-term solutions, which has engendered one of the Legislature's worst habits.
Our senators and representatives steal money from different funds throughout the budget and use them to Band-Aid our problems.
They take our severance tax revenue, which is supposed to go to energy-impacted communities such as Moffat County, because they don't think people will support them if they propose a tax increase.
To operate a society this way is clumsy and useless, and the people are as responsible as the politicians.
The Legislature's hands are fairly tied. Mandated expenses make up 92 percent of the budget. There's not a lot of wiggle room to cut costs or reroute funding.
It is an unenviable task to try convincing millions of people to think the same way about the most personal issue of all, our money, but that will be the leadership we need in the years ahead.
We need legislators who will tell us our problems and give us viable solutions, even if those include paying more.
The people must come to a point where they can hear the argument for higher taxes without automatically tuning out.
We need to give the Legislature the political will to do what's needed, because it is true what they say. A democracy is only as strong as its people.