December 14, 2007

Ritter Responds to Mesa County Lawsuit

A blog like this becomes a repository of history, not only of what is written here, but of what has been said. Eventually the data base becomes formidible enough that politicians know that if they lie they will be called on it. Bill Ritter's staff continued to feed The Big Blue Lie Machine with this statement, and if this site had gone into operation in January, it would be easy to demonstrate (sigh). It's not too late to start.

Today, Bill Ritter's staff said this about the lawsuit against the 2007 School Finance Act:

"Every day, Gov. Ritter and the legislators who supported the 2007 School Finance Act are fighting on behalf of Colorado's children, on behalf of Colorado's local schools and on behalf of Colorado's future.

Actually, Bill Ritter is in Afganistan today, playing pretend Commander in Chief of the Colorado National Guard. One hopes that Colorado taxpayers aren't paying for this boondoogle, but we likely are. [ Added: it turns out the Pentagon is paying - still Colorado taxpayers last we heard. ]

Most troubling is that there is no guarantee that a single extra dollar of these additional taxes will end up in any school district's coffer. The legislature is pulling a fast one on the school districts by forcing them to substitute local money for state money, leaving the state legislature to spend the money on non education special interests.

"The lawsuit instigated by Jon Caldara is politically motivated and threatens to hold our children and our local schools hostage. We are confident the lawsuit will fail and we can return our focus where it belongs - on our children.

There is room for honest disagreement here, and likely some dishonest disagreement as well. Many, including the Mesa County Commissioners and the Colorado Attorney General believe this law violates not only the spirit of TABOR, it violates its plain language. Since when is forcing the state legislature and Governor to prove in court that they didn't violate their oaths of office by passing and signing an unconstitutional law "politically motivated?"

"SB 199 has great support around Colorado, from business organizations to community colleges to local school districts. What's more, voters in 175 of 178 school districts have already voted to invest local revenue in their local schools. The question has been asked and answered by 98 percent of the voters in Colorado. SB 199 simply gave voice to the voters.

Voters weren't told when they "debruced," as the process was called, that they were doing anything more than allowing their districts to keep monies in excess of TABOR limits. Individual districts cannot raise taxes without voter approval, so why should the state be allowed to circumvent this fundamental protection?

It is a flat out, bald faced lie to say that "SB 199 simply gave voice to the voters." SB 199 could have given voice to the voters if the legislature had allowed it to be put to the voters. This lawsuit aims to force that outcome.

"The Office of Legislative Legal Services, in 2004 and again in 2007, along with Gov. Ritter's chief legal counsel, have issued opinions that put SB199 on solid legal footing. We look forward to vigorously defending the children of Colorado against this lawsuit."

This sleazy paragraph leaves out an important fact and tells another lie. The State's Attorney General, John Suthers issued an opinion that the tax increase must go before the voters. When Bill Ritter and the legislature cannot get a favorable ruling out of the state's Attorney General, they wheel out an unelected lawyer to issue the ruling they want.

Colorado Senate News reports that AG John Suthers took the unusual step of going to the legislature to explain his position:

Suthers said the proposal to freeze the tax rate, or mill levy, in local school districts -- raising tax bills as property values rise -- takes away an important protection for voters. That's so, he said, even in the majority of school districts that have voted over the years to let their local schools keep more revenue. Suthers said the voters in those districts did not vote to give up control over their tax rates.

If the legislature were causing school district budgets to increase by the amount of the taxes being collected, Ritter's staff might be able to claim that they are "vigorously defending the children of Colorado against this lawsuit." The money isn't going to school districts or even necessarily to children. It is going into the general fund to be wasted by the same cynical politicians who are cynically claiming that the law they passed is "for the children." It isn't "for the children," it's "for the politicians."

The Big Blue Lie Machine is blowing steam out every crack and crevice.

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