November 23, 2007

A Billion Here, A Billion There...

Despite the political lore of my youth, it seems that Ev Dirkson never opined that before long a billion here and a billion there adds up to real money. The modern internet has burst so many of the ballons of my younger days. Sigh!

It seems that Bill Ritter has set out to save us taxpayers some real money. Last year, he set in motion a bunch of blue ribbon panels whose goal, individually and collectively, was to spend Colorado taxpayers into poverty. He appointed roadbuilding hawks to the roadbuilding panel and health care hawks to the healthcare panel, and so on.

No one believed that any of these panels wouldn't recommend the gold solution for the problem they were promoting (word chosen carefully). Politically, they couldn't quite make it to the gold solution, given that TABOR still lives, so they did the next best thing. They cut $500 million off the roadbuilding wish list. It is to only cost $1.5 billion, rather than the $2 billion.

Consider that the total annual budget for Colorado is in the $18 billion range (pdf), and $1.5 billion annualy per special interest wish list for four lists starts to sound like real money. In 2010, expect Ritter to claim to have saved taxpayers real money, a billion here, and a billion there. The Rocky Mountain News Reports:

Funding it would require a $100 average increase in auto registration fees, a 13-cent-a- gallon hike in the gas tax, a state sales tax increase of 0.35 percentage points, a new "visitor" fee of $6 a day on hotel rooms and car rentals, and an increase in the severance tax paid by the oil and gas industry.

The proposed tax increases couldn't become effective without voters' approval

It seems that no one's word is worth much these days, and no government promise can be made that won't be as quickly broken. When Bill Owens sold the roadbuilding bonding issue to the public, he made a list of 25 projects which hasn't been worked off, except in Denver. Now, the Denver area, which got the lions share of money from that money pot wants to put the screws to the rest of the state by throwing out the list:

The Southeast Business Partnership, a key backer of T-REX and other transportation initiatives, has voiced its support for a recommendation by a panel advising Gov. Bill Ritter to spend a minimum $1.5 billion more each year on transportation projects.

The group also called on the new spending to be allocated significantly to local governments for roads and to apportion a large share to the Denver region, which will generate the lion's share of proposed new taxes and fees.

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