Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sales Tax and Metro Mayors

The Denver metro area sales tax revenue for two months in a row shows an 18 percent decline over last year. That includes revenue from construction sales, department stores and big box sales, including Cherry Creek, Park Meadows and auto dealers.

It is strange, indeed, that metro area mayors appear determined to raise sales taxes another $160 million per year for RTD’s latest, and likely inaccurate, projection of the cost for more of the light rail system promised and already receiving a $160 million sales tax hike in 2004.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In-state Tuition

The in-state tuition bill lost big in the Colorado State Senate. When five Democrats vote against a Democratic-sponsored bill, someone can’t count. The economy and a sense Democrats could lose three or more seats, sunk the bill (see Denver Post article).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hickenlooper Runs as Independent

If you believe the rumor making the rounds then Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will run as an independent candidate in Colorado’s next gubernatorial election. While it’s highly unlikely, and mostly a product of both a lack of enthusiasm for Bill Ritter and Republican hopes for a divided Democratic Party, there are good reasons why Colorado could be ready for an independent candidate such as Hickenlooper.

• Colorado’s electorate is mostly in the middle. Voter registration and polling show that a plurality of Colorado voters identify as independents and hold centrist opinions on most fiscal and social issues.

• Hickenlooper presents himself as a post-partisan politician. Again, a plurality of the public prefers politicians who offer themselves as non-partisan pragmatics.

• Hickenlooper and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are examples of politicians who have won elections and reelections, but would have difficulty winning their respective party nominations. Although Hickenlooper is a social liberal, he is insufficiently supportive of organized labor’s agenda, somewhat fiscally conservative and not highly identified with minority patronage and politics.

• An independent governor might be a policy and political success. The Democratic Party’s domination of Colorado state government may push the state into the failed California model of higher taxes, higher spending, special interest dominance and regulatory overload, creating an opportunity for a center-left, but non-partisan politician. With some Democratic ties, he could provide a brake on the Democratic agenda while finding some center-right Republicans willing to negotiate. What Colorado voters like is a solution-oriented, centrist approach to government.

• It is not clear Hickenlooper could find the votes to win. He would mostly take votes from Ritter in the metro area and North Front Range. If the Republicans nominate a credible politician who conducts an effective campaign, a big if, he or she could assemble a strong non-metro vote and win.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Global Warming Still Lacks Major Constituency

General public concern about environmental issues has fallen since recent high points in 2000. Currently, top environmental issues for the public are water pollution and water shortages.

Surprisingly, although global warming now dominates Washington media and liberal interest groups’ environmental agenda, it has thus far failed to attract a major constituency among the public.

In addition, there has been an up-tick in people who believe “global warming is exaggerated” by the media. A record high of 41 percent believe it’s “exaggerated,” up from 31 percent in 2000. Only 28 percent believe the issue is underestimated. About one-half of the public (57%) believes the issue is either reported correctly (29%) or underestimated (28%). The recent highest year for the public belief global warming was not exaggerated was 2005. Since then, increasing percentages of people have become skeptical of political and media claims about the issue’s seriousness. Both Republicans and Independents are now much more likely to believe the issue is being exaggerated than in 2005.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Metro Mayors Promote Record High Sales Taxes

Kevin Flynn, on the new website In Denver Times, reports that 12 of 34 municipalities in the metro area will hit 9% sales tax if voters approve RTD’s new four-tenths of a percent sales tax increase (approximately $160 million more per year for light rail; voters gave RTD $160 million annually in 2004 for the complete system build-out) (see In Denver Times).

A few of the highest rates would be in normally tax-conservative areas, such as Aurora, Brighton, Federal Heights, Northglenn and Thornton (only parts of some municipalities would reach 9% due to tax variations between counties and cities).

Historically, cities and towns were resistant to sales tax increases not specifically for local projects and operations due to their significant dependence on sales taxes, but in recent years, they have been swept up in a general enthusiasm for regional sales tax increases, often reducing local tax capacity.

Organized Labor has Friendly Environment, But Card Check Could be in Trouble

National polls in general show Americans sympathetic to labor unions. A 2008 Gallup Poll showed 59 percent approve of unions. In Colorado, organized labor has with liberal and Democratic allies and weak or divided business opposition passed a generous minimum wage initiative in 2006 and defeated a “right to work” initiative in 2008.

However, a recent national poll shows only 53 percent of public approve of the unions’ new “card check” legislation, which will allow union organizations to simply collect signed authorization forms from workers instead of requiring elections based on secret ballots (see Gallup Poll).

The biggest concern for labor leaders and their allies is that support for card check is primarily among those who are not following the issue. The more attentive public is either strongly opposed or closely divided on the issue.