January 31, 2008

Revelations in Voorhis Case Suggest Possible Double Standard at Work

While immigration agent Cory Voorhis awaits trial for accessing a federal criminal database for campaign-related purposes, the Denver Post reports that Gov. Bill Ritter's 2006 campaign may have encouraged the exact same activity:
Denver DA officials have previously acknowledged that they too accessed the National Crime Information Computer to check on [Denver heroin dealer Carlos] Estrada-Medina, saying it was done in response to media calls after a Beauprez campaign ad featuring Estrada-Medina began running on Oct. 10, 2006. But the records of cellphone calls and call logs released by the DA's office in response to a request from The Denver Post show no such media deluge. Instead, they indicate that the DA office's work on Estrada-Medina also had its roots in a campaign.

A call log maintained by DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough shows that on Oct. 10, "Steph" called and asked about "Carlos Estrada-Medina." Dick Reeve, a lawyer for the DA's office, confirmed that Steph was Stephanie Villafuerte, former chief deputy DA who was working for the Ritter campaign..

Reeve, the attorney for [Chuck] Lepley, [Lynn] Kimbrough and other DA employees, said that they were never asked by Villafuerte or anyone else at the Ritter campaign to access the NCIC, but when asked if information that the DA's office retrieved from the NCIC was provided to Villafuerte or others from the Ritter campaign, Reeve declined comment.

"That's a specific question that is best left to the testimony on Friday," Reeve said.

Villafuerte did not respond to a phone message left on her cellphone Wednesday. Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said the campaign never asked anyone at the DA's office to access the NCIC and that everyone there would have been unaware that the DA's office had accessed the NCIC.

Until the investigation digs deeper, there will be no convincing answer to explain away what appears to be a clear double standard:
"The DA's office ran an NCIC check and called a campaign, and they say that doesn't break the law. So, why did Cory break the law for doing the same thing?" said Mike Riebau, a former immigration special agent who heads up a legal defense fund for Voorhis.
Ritter has to be wishing for this story to disappear. Just as long as it doesn't mean putting Voorhis away while letting his friends off the hook.

More Pandering to Corn Farmers, No Solutions

This is a water starved state. Our governor, Bill Ritter, has no business promoting a crop that uses a lot of water for a product that uses even more water. But that is what he is doing.

"This is a really important part of our agricultural economy, and the whole idea of growing the corn/ethanol economy is something that helps with respect to our entire sort of economic situation," [ Bill ] Ritter said. "So we're very focused on agriculture and making sure we keep that a stable part of our economy."

Even the farmers understand that the elephant in the corn ethanol room is water:

Yet, while some were grateful for his work on [corn ethanol ] thus far, Glen Murray, a corn farmer from Brighton, was slightly miffed that the governor [ Bill Ritter ] had nothing new to say about the issues concerning water use in the state.

"He didn't really give us a lot of direction," Murray said. "I mean conservation is not new -- we've been talking about that for a long time. Storage is not new -- we've been talking about that for a long time."

The most curious quote of the evening came after the speech:

"Really, we can help ourselves a great deal with conservation, with re-use, with shared use between municipalities and agricultural land," said Ritter after his speech. "And then we have to decide at what level we embark upon greater water storage."

Ritter may not be aware that the Mark Udall bloggers appear to be trying to gin up an attack on Bob Schaffer based on his past support of water storage. We'd guess that issue just disappeared.

We ask Bill Ritter to explain his pandering position on corn ethanol when there will be a water crisis in this state.

January 30, 2008

Indecisive Ritter Leans Toward Raising Vehicle Fees

After nearly a year of having a transportation panel in place, Gov. Bill Ritter still isn't sure what he's going to do about Colorado's roads:
Senate Republicans were flabbergasted today after Gov. Bill Ritter said he remains unsure how he will fund Colorado's most critical transportation needs--weeks into the 2008 legislative session and almost a year after he set up a panel to study the issue.
But if Ritter had to choose, he is leaning towards a plan that will hit the family pocketbook:
The plan the governor's transportation panel has been touting involves up to $100-a-vehicle registration fee hikes. Ritter admitted to lawmakers at today's gathering that a fee hike, "...is something that can happen without going to the voters."
In this instance, while Ritter is going astray, Republicans are on the right track. The opposition party is arguing for a constitutional change that ensures transportation funds are used for their intended purposes, not spent on other pet projects so Democrats can leave roads and bridges unfixed and come back begging for a tax increase:
[Senate minority leader Andy] McElhany said asking voters for permission to raise revenue not only is the right thing to do, but it is also the only realistic way to fund transportation.

"If you don't go to the ballot and secure any transportation funding in the constitution, I have full faith the General Assembly will fritter away those funds on other programs sooner or later," he said. "If the governor doesn't understand that, he is naive."

Fiscal responsibility is certainly not a hallmark of Colorado's current Democratic administration.

January 29, 2008

Ritter Merits Bipartisan Rebuke for Harmful Over-Regulation Proposal

The Associated Press reports today - via the Aspen Times - from the State Capitol that Gov. Bill Ritter has received a stern bipartisan rebuke for trying to over-regulate the energy industry, in effect harming the bottom line of many Colorado families:
Republican and Democratic lawmakers sent Gov. Bill Ritter a strongly worded letter on Tuesday saying that proposed regulations for oil and gas production are "unacceptable" and would cripple the industry, which brings in $23 billion a year and employs 70,000 people in Colorado.

"We are gravely concerned that the draft rules will have a punitive impact on the industry at a time when already high energy prices are pinching Colorado's working families like never before. As written, the draft rules are unacceptable," said the letter, signed by nine Republicans and two Democrats from across the state.
His rhetoric aside, this story is further proof that Ritter is governing on behalf of narrow interests on the Left, rather than advancing policies that benefit the state of Colorado.

January 25, 2008

Dems' "No-Strike" Bait-and-Switch a Boon to Ritter

The Democrats at the State Capitol are trying to pull one over on Colorado voters in an attempt to give cover to Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order that provides for the unionization of state employees. Startled by the Attorney General's revelation that his order could not prevent strikes, Ritter quickly and publicly agreed to support the concept of a no-strike law in the state legislature brought forward by Republicans.

Well, today we receive word of a bait-and-switch. After killing a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, that would provide real enforceable penalties that deter public employee strikes, the Democrats went ahead and gave mere lip service to public order and accountability:
[The House Business and Labor Committee] voted 6-5 in favor of House Bill 1189, sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, which would prohibit strikes for the roughly 37,000 state workers eligible for Ritter's so-called employee-partnership agreements.

Ritter had argued that his order barred state workers from striking. But he agreed to sign legislation banning strikes after concerns were raised that his order could not supersede an existing law allowing a qualified right for public employees to strike.

Riesberg's bill would make it a misdemeanor to violate the prohibition. He urged its passage in the interest of helping the legislature move on to what he said is more important business. [emphasis added]
Yes, the whole topic of preventing public employee strikes is just a nuisance to Democrats, who need to keep their alliances with deep-pocketed labor officials well-fed and fat, while throwing an unenforceable "no-strike" bone for the people of Colorado to chew up. Misdemeanor, eh? That's really going to have a deterrent effect to stop union collective action against the public interest.

Unless the Democrats' bill can somehow be amended first, it will end up on Ritter's desk where he can sign it and look like a champion of order and the public good while giving a wink to government employee union leaders.

But that won't stop Republicans from trying:
Afterward, House Minority Caucus Chairwoman Amy Stephens, R-Monument, said that her party would try to toughen up Riesberg’s bill at its next stop on the House floor.
And lest you think we've heard the last of the sops to special interest Big Labor, one union leader confessed to reporters the plan to make Ritter's executive order work more strongly to their benefit, at a cost sure to be felt by taxpayers:
Teamsters Local Union 455 Political Director Ted Textor said he is working with an unidentified legislator on a bill that would grant state workers collective bargaining, in which they present proposals on everything from salaries to safety to their bosses and then vote as a group whether to accept the state’s terms. The “partnerships” that Ritter created carry less power, he said.
Now, we've already established that Ritter's order grants collective bargaining rights. This description sounds like maybe union leaders want costly binding arbitration and/or guaranteed agency fees imposed on state workers.

Gov. Ritter has let the Big Labor genie out of the bottle. What's he going to do when this proposal floats to his desk?

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

January 24, 2008

Good For The Goose? Good For The Gander!

The Cory Voorhis political revenge trial continues.

The Rocky Mountain News reports Voorhis has been granted access to the Denver DA's records about their access to the data base.

Voorhis' attorneys have argued that the prosecutors' office legally used the databases to publicly disclose information about an illegal immigrant. If it was lawful for the DA to disclose the information, the attorneys say, it shouldn't have been illegal for Voorhis to do the same.

Of course, the other side of this coin is that if it was illegal for Voorhis to reveal data base, it was also illegal for the Denver DA's office to do so as well. Does this mean that Bill Ritter's mean spirited and vengeful actions against Voorhis might end up putting Ritter in the Federal slammer? Time will tell, but what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

If Ritter goes to jail, or even comes under investigation, Voorhis' ICE agent boss, Jeff Copp, needs a serious look for criminal activity as well. Based on published reports, his testimony that he didn't believe Voorhis had done anything wrong before he started to question him doesn't appear to have matched his actions.

Senate Approves Ritter's Anti-Energy Independence Appointment

Yesterday we highlighted the shallow reserves of common sense behind Gov. Ritter's appointment of Matt Baker to head the Public Utilities Commission. Today the Democrat-led state senate approved Baker's commission, over the objections of Republicans who raised very serious questions about the man's "narrow, ideological agenda":
"We can't turn on the lights in Colorado without meaningful coal generation," Penry said, dimissing "Matt's very narrow-minded view of how we provide electric generation."

Senate GOP leader Andy McElhany echoed that concern, warning, "It is a mistake to appoint someone to a quasi-judicial board who has such a bias against the least expensive fuel available to us."

As State Senator Shawn Mitchell observed, his Democratic colleagues' vote represented "waving the white flag on energy independence." So much for a moderate governor or a moderate majority party in the state legislature.

January 23, 2008

Tearing The State Apart

Was Bill Ritter last in line when Our Maker was was handing out common sense? It would seem so.

He is making appointments that can't possibly be defended. Last week, we learned that he had appointed a fifth judge to the state Commission on Judicial Discipline. The 13 year head of that commission testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that doing so was a really bad idea. It would lead to the perception that judges could not be

Now, we find that Bill Ritter has appointed a man, Matt Baker, who is an avowed opponent of coal fired power plants to the state utility rate setting commission.

We can only guess that Bill Ritter wants to completely destroy the Colorado economy by substituting wind and solar power for coal. If those kinds of plants were cost effective, they would be built without government intervention or coercion. That is how the free enterprise system works.

What will it be next week?

January 22, 2008

Kory Nelson Was Unimpressed

The Rocky Mountain News has a web only takedown of one line on education in Bill Ritter's State of the State address:

"I am proposing that we establish policies that assume all students have the potential to succeed in college and that we prepare them accordingly.”
Nelson proceeded to make observations that almost anyone knowledgable in the field of education could have made. One wonders why Bill Ritter is so clueless on the matter.

Nelson wrote a long essay well worth reading, but sometimes the comments are equally useful and interesting. Here is one:

It's increasingly obvious that CO elected a dunce--Bill Ritter--and that his blizzard of Blue Ribbon Commissions are going to produce nothing more than $3.1 billion in annual tax and fee hikes ($650 for every man, woman and child in the state) for the taxpayers--just as we are on the cusp of economic recession that requires tax cuts and not hikes. Ritter seems to be totally vacant of any original ideas and wants to govern by unaccountable committees and commissions, the membership of which didn't receive one single vote. That's not leadership, that's followship.

I hope CO voters r-e-c-a-l-l Gray Davis of California and what the citizens ultimately did to him as he fell further and further out of touch with reality.

January 21, 2008

Dumbing Down Colorado Students

Except for the legal profession, which doesn't mind appearing to have devolved itself into little more than a sophisticated organized theft ring acting under the color of law, few well paying professions operate without a core background in math.

Engineers start at $80,000 or more a year. Personnel managers at $30,000 if they are lucky; New journalists are lucky to get $20,000. Doctors, who use a lot of math to get past the Chemistry courses, can start at $150,000. Musicians, except Rock Stars, live in poverty.

We were amazed to find a reference to Bill Ritter's new education proposal and a quote from one of his advisers:

Ritter's proposal, under discussion for weeks with school leaders, is equivalent to taking the education system apart and putting it back together.

Instead of passing a set number of courses to graduate, students would have to demonstrate competency in key areas, such as math or English.

And students might pick up those competencies in new ways - learning math, for example, as part of a career education course in computers.

"What's in Algebra II that's so important?" said Matt Gianneschi, Ritter's education adviser. "How can it be delivered in high school? Does it need to be in a course called 'Algebra II?'

Can you see a Chemistry teacher being forced to teach a junior how to solve for a variable in an equation before he tries to teach the Chemistry? When music teachers and lawyers are put in charge of education, we get some really dumb outcomes. Right Michael Merrifield? Right Bill Ritter?

We discovered this little gem when the Rocky published a letter to the editor about it.

January 20, 2008

Looking For A Tax To Raise

If the Colorado economy weren't about to tank, Bill Ritter would very likely be trying to raise income taxes or property taxes (again). With TABOR still in force, Ritter and company can only try to raise taxes through elections. That limits attempts to the month of November. Each missed November is a missed "opportunity."

We had speculated elsewhere that the easiest tax to try to raise is the Severance Tax because the companies which pay that tax have no vote. We had thought that Ritter would sting the voters with a Transportation tax or a Higher Education tax, and then do the easy tax.

We were wrong, or were we? The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that Ritter is preparing the ground for a Severance tax increase vote this year.

We suspect that Ritter wanted to raise taxes for these other items but got scared off by the economy. So now, the easy tax may be the only tax he can try to raise.

January 18, 2008

Out of Blue Ribbon?

Just into the second year of his first term, Bill Ritter seems to have used up his quota of blue ribbon but hasn't lost the "appoint a committee" urge.

Now, it is a "Jobs Cabinet."

The group, whose aim is to align the skills of workers with the needs of
companies, will have 35 to 40 members, led by Lyons, Qwest executive Teresa
Taylor and Trinidad State Junior College President Ruth Ann Woods.
This morning, the Denver Post editorialized that we need high Federal gasoline taxes to discourage consumption. Perhaps we could just settle for fewer and smaller blue ribbon panels.

January 17, 2008

Bill Owens Divorcing

The Rocky Mountain News reported this morning that former Governor Bill Owens and his wife are divorcing. Unfortunately, the Rocky's site is misbehaving, so we cannot provide a link to the story.

Edited to add: The site is back up.

January 16, 2008

Ignoring The Constitution

The Rocky Mountain News reports this morning that Bill Ritter's lawyer threatened to sue the Commission on Judicial Performance:

Trey Rogers, Ritter's chief legal counsel, told Rick Wehmhofer, the commission's executive director, that he expected Alvarez would be a full participant in that meeting. Holcomb claims Rogers threatened a lawsuit if the commission did not comply.

[ John ] Holcomb said the commission was concerned about a law that makes it a misdemeanor to reveal its confidential information, since [ Federico C ] Alvarez hadn't been confirmed by the Senate or sworn in.

The meeting proceeded without Alvarez and the commission voted to seek an opinion from the attorney general on the matter.

Holcomb said Rogers again threatened a lawsuit when the commission would not tell him what other business took place at the meeting.

The state constitution both authorizes the Commission and requires that it act in secret, even from the Governor and his lawyer. If the Governor finds it inconvenient to follow the constitution, we suggest that he find other work.

Somebody Buy Bill Ritter Some TapDancing Shoes

Bill Ritter has some very difficult dancing to do. He runs as a moderate, but becomes beholden to the far Leftist coalition; he bottles up a union bill, only to put it in place later by executive order; and now this:

A Republican lawmaker called Gov. Bill Ritter's appointment of a high-profile environmentalist to the Public Utilities Commission an effort to compensate for the governor's decision to open up the Roan Plateau to limited natural gas drilling.

Anybody care to put an over/under number on the number of visual years Bill Ritter ages by the end of his first term?

January 15, 2008

Perjury: A Cancer on Ritter

There were 11 prosecutions for perjury in Colorado over the last two years. Gross failure to investigate and prosecute perjury is a cancer on the state. The dirty little secret of perjury is that it is as often used to convict the innocent as it is used to interfere with the prosecution of the guilty.

Don't believe it? Ask any cop but a rookie cop if he has ever been asked by a prosecutor to withhold an inconvenient truth while on the witness stand.

Based on newspaper reports, it appears that one of the witnesses against ICE agent is withholding an inconvenient truth:

In court today, Jeff Copp, the special agent in charge of the Denver ICE office, testified that he received a call from the director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation that month, asking him to question Voorhis about why he accessed the database.

Copp said he didn't believe Voorhis had done anything wrong. He was surprised when the agent came into his office and said he had retained a lawyer, who had advised him not to answer questions.

Jeff Copp is a federal law enforcement officer with enough experience that he supervises other law enforcement officers. He was conducting an investigation at the request of the Director of the CBI. The CBI suspected that Cory Voorhis was the leaker.

If Copp actually believed that Voorhis had done nothing wrong, he had an obligation to tell the CBI that and to refuse to participate. Federal agents can tell state officials to go pound sand, and routinely do so.

The fact that Copp was voluntarily participating in the investigation strongly suggests that Copp considered Voorhis a prime subject.

Correct procedure would have been for Copp to call Voorhis in and read him his rights before beginning his questioning. Miranda requires that. Copp, like every other police and military officer in the nation doubtless carries his own personal laminated copy of the Miranda warning in his back pocket.

The penalty for ignoring Miranda is suppression of the evidence collected. Care to bet that this prosecution cannot go forward if this evidence is suppressed. That is why Copp is trying to be clever with his testimony.

There is supposed to be a penalty for any lawyer, including a prosecutor, who knowingly allows a witness to put forward false testimony, but that part of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct is routinely ignored.

Copp's statement that he didn't believe that Voorhis had done anything wrong is not supported in any way by his actions. It has the foul stench of perjury. He ought to be both prosecuted and fired.

It seems that Bill Ritter is vicious enough that he is willing to promote both selective prosecution and the perjury necessary to make the prosecution stick.

January 13, 2008

Just Placeholding

That title applies to Bill Ritter and to this blogger. The weekend has been a full one and will extend into tomorrow.

We had to chuckle when we read that Dan Haley thought Bill Ritter had spent the whole first year on cruise control and that he planned to do the same in year two. We're not sure why Haley would be egging the governor on, given his supposed political leanings, but....

January 11, 2008

Why did Ritter Leave Worker Protections out of His Order?

The Denver Business Journal interviewed one of the two national labor experts who spoke at an event this morning sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the Federalist Society. From the article headlined "Labor experts make case against Ritter's union order":
The governor and Democrats in the House and Senate argue the order is non-binding and won't have a direct bearing on budgets or businesses. Many in the business community also say they're hard pressed to see how the order effects them.

But Stan Greer, senior programming director for the National Institute of Labor Relations, based in Springfield, Va., made the case that Ritter's executive order isn't in the state's best economic interests -- particularly if state workers are forced to pay union dues.

Greer spoke in front of some prominent local Republicans, including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Senate Minority Leader John McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and other legislators, at Denver's University Club Friday morning.

Based on what he's seen in other states, Greer said, the executive order increases the chances that most state workers will belong to a union -- especially because Ritter's order didn't explicitly bar forced union fees.

"The governor is bending over backwards to say forced unionization is not what he's imposing," Greer said. "But if the governor was against union dues and agency fees, he would have explicitly put that in the order. ... He wants to leave the door open, but it's not convenient for him to talk about it at this time."
I've written a lot about Gov. Ritter's executive order. But until I heard Greer and his colleague Raymond LaJeunesse bring up this point, I had pretty much conceded that the order wouldn't be a big issue when it came to worker freedom. Sure, some state employees will have to accept union representation regardless of whether or not they believe it benefits them.

But what about setting up "agency shops" in Colorado state government - where everyone has to pay tribute to the "exclusive representative" union to keep their job? Gov. Ritter could have explicitly prohibited non-member "agency fees" in his executive order. But he didn't.

As Greer and LaJeunesse pointed out, Ritter could have followed the example of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1962 signed Executive Order 10988, enabling monopoly collective bargaining among federal government employees. Included in the order: "Employees of the Federal Government shall have, and shall be protected in the exercise of, the right, freely and without feel of penalty or reprisal, to form, join and assist any employee organization or to refrain from any such activity. [Emphasis added]"

Ritter's order has nothing to say about state government workers' rights along these lines. Why not? The governor has told us that his order doesn't provide for agency fees, and that he retains final authority over the process. But when Big Labor negotiates "fair share" agency fees into a union "partnership agreement" as a trade-off for a smaller pay raise, who will be there to counter the union's political pressure?

Hint, hint ... Someone needs to follow up on the Denver Business Journal story and ask Gov. Ritter whether he intends to amend his order by adding individual worker protections.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

Why Bill Ritter Is Still Paying The Price

Today's Denver Post panned Bill Ritter's State of the State speech as "uninspiring."

Gov. Bill Ritter's State of the State address Thursday sounded more like an
interim report by the Milquetoast Committee than a stirring call to action.

The Post was a cheerleader for the governor throughout the election, to the point that its coverage of Bob Beauprez was clearly calculated to damage Beauprez. It didn't consider the possibility of a HB 07-1072 and was taken aback when that surfaced immediately.

Even though Ritter vetoed that bill, he still had an outstanding IOU to labor, and paid it with his executive order. The Post was sufficiently upset that it published an unusual front page editorial.

Things haven't been the same since. The question isn't "why" Bill Ritter is paying a price, it is really how long he will be paying it.

January 10, 2008

What Ritter Didn't Talk About

Sometimes a major speech by an elected official is as noteworthy for what wasn't said as for what was said. Such might be the case with Gov. Bill Ritter's State of the State Address today. Not a single mention of two very significant acts made during his first year as Colorado governor:

1. A property tax increase he championed without a vote of the people that we just learned will take an extra $2+ billion in revenue from Colorado homeowners and business owners.

2. A Friday afternoon executive order that reconfigures state government labor relations, creating "partnerships" (read: collective bargaining) that promise to fill union coffers.

You know, when you look closely, it's not altogether surprising Ritter doesn't want to talk about these two significant acts of his administration. But be assured that Coloradans will hear a lot more about them.

Fun to Watch Colorado Media Matters

Colorado Media Matters is a whirling cog in the Big Blue Lie Machine. It sometimes spins so fast that it forgets where it wants to end up. Today, they are working over the Denver Post article comparing Washington State unionization and Backroom Bill Ritter's boondoggle.

They've done such a good job at explaining how good Colorado public employees have it that they have forgotten that they needed to leave a justification for the order. They even argued that away:

But the Post omitted key differences between Colorado and Washington, including the significant contrast between the states' rates of union membership and the measures that Colorado has taken since 2004 to maintain prevailing wages for its workforce, while Washington state workers' pay was losing ground to those in comparable private-sector occupations.


For example, the Post reported that "thousands of [Washington] state workers have received double-digit raises after a state survey found that their wages lagged far behind the private sector," and that the state "agreed to give increases to certain workers, such as nurses, that brought them to within at least 25 percent of what they would make in the private sector." But the article neglected to point out that, unlike Washington, the state of Colorado has implemented measures designed to keep state employee salaries competitive with those available in the private job market.


In contrast, Colorado's Total Compensation report, updated in December, states, "With very few exceptions, the General Assembly has historically and consistently funded market salary adjustments at prevailing levels based on the salary survey process." The report further shows a timeline of actions Colorado has taken from 2004 through 2007 to improve total compensation of its employees, including aligning "salary ranges to move with the market and leave no employee below range minimum."

So, here's our question for both Media Matters and for Governor Bill Ritter: If Colorado workers have it this good, what is the justification for the order in the first place?

Media Matters spends so much time arguing its case that it forgets where it starts and where it wishes to end up. It doesn't seem likely that it wanted to end up tearing apart any and all justification for the Bill Ritter executive order, but that is what it has done.

January 9, 2008

Ritter's Unconstitutional Property Tax Hike Becoming a Boondoggle

From the Denver Post today comes staggering, but not altogether surprising, news:

Gov. Bill Ritter's property-tax freeze will generate an estimated $2 billion more over 10 years than lawmakers were expecting when they approved it eight months ago, according to the latest calculations.

The revenue leap fired up Republican lawmakers — who were already calling the freeze an "illegal tax hike" — as the legislature convenes today for its 2008 session.

The freeze, which prevents local property taxes for schools from dropping, is now projected to result in nearly $3.8 billion in state money by 2017. That's more than double the $1.74 billion estimated when lawmakers passed the governor's proposal in May. [Emphasis added]

Depending on which school district your home or business inhabits, this means even twice the pain for your wallet than previously estimated. Sounds like a rerun of the Referendum C story.

We can't forget that it is Gov. Bill Ritter and the Democratic Party who own this unconstitutional proposal (i.e., they should have asked the voters first!). They've tried dodging the argument and playing dumb. But all lawmakers and public officials need to be kept accountable to the taxpayers they represent.

Cross posted at Colorado Taxpayers

January 8, 2008

Tax Hikes On The Horizon For Colorado

Don't think so? Just wait until Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter unveils his plans for the state in two days, especially on the hot-button education, transportation, and health care issues:
Gov. Bill Ritter spent his first year in office talking about tackling Colorado's biggest problems - health care, transportation and pulling higher education funding out of the cellar.

He appointed blue ribbon commissions to get buy-in from interest groups on possible fixes and to nail down costs.

By the fall, Ritter was signaling he might back a tax increase for one of the big three needs.

Thursday, Ritter will stand before the legislature and update his vision for Colorado at his second State of the State speech.
Specific plans won't be known until the speech, but we can be assured that our wallets will feel the effects.

When will the tax-and-spend demagogues admit that the Referendum C tax increase, sold to voters as a panacea for Colorado's budget ills, was merely the tip of the tax-increase iceberg--especially now that both houses of the state legislature and the governor's mansion are in Democrat hands?

When hell freezes over, I suppose (which will be a long, long time due to that other bureaucratic nightmare, global warming).

January 7, 2008

Ritter Transportation Panel Calls for More Taxes

Another panel commissioned by Gov. Bill Ritter, another set of recommended tax increases:
Governor Bill Ritter's 32-member blue-ribbon panel is recommending a $100 average increase in vehicle registration fees as part of its $1.5 billion plan to pay for much-needed transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements.The road funding proposals include:
  • Increase vehicle registration fees by $100 on average.
  • Raise gas tax by 13 cents a gallon.
  • Icrease [sic] the fee on hotel rooms and car rentals to $6 a day.
  • Increasing the state sales tax by 0.35 percent.
  • Increase severance tax by 1.7 percent.
This is starting to sound like a tired theme. I don't know about your middle-class family, but all these proposals alone would take a significant chunk out of my household budget. Is this what Coloradans voted for when they elected Ritter to be governor in 2006?

Cross posted at Colorado Union of Taxpayers

January 6, 2008

Washington's Experiences Undermine Ritter's Case for Executive Order

The Denver Post features an excellent article today examining what happened in Washington state when unions were given more power in state government:
Since its first union-negotiated collective-bargaining agreement for state workers took effect in July 2005, Washington has spent or earmarked $3 billion in taxpayer money to cover increases in wages and benefits.

The state shelled out $13.9 billion on wages and benefits for about 108,000 workers in fiscal 2006 and 2007, about $1.4 billion more than the previous two years, according to state data. About 70,000 of those workers are represented by unions.

Washington expects to spend $1.6 billion more during the next two fiscal years.

Another $14 million or so has also been spent to fund a newly created agency, the Labor Relations Office, that negotiates contracts with unions, as well as the growing costs of a separate agency, the Public Employment Relations Commission, which oversees disputes between unions and employers.

Yet after Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order authorizing the unionization of state government, this is the best assurance we can get:

Evan Dreyer, Ritter's spokesman, said Colorado's "partnership agreement" approach is different from Washington state's, and what has occurred there won't necessarily play out here. [emphasis added]

Large increases in state government expenditures to a workforce that is already among the best paid in the nation won't necessarily happen? Not a tremendous assurance, especially with what Washingtonians are expecting to come down the pike:

"We're just beginning to see the impacts of the full unionization for state employees," said Don Brunnell, president of the Association of Washington Business. "We think that when the economy starts to slide and when we begin to have revenue shortfalls, it's going to be much more difficult . . . to negotiate a contract with these folks."

Bogdanoff notes that, as a safety measure, the contracts require approval from both the governor and state legislature.

If that's what happens in Washington with a "safety measure" in place like the one included in Ritter's order, what are Colorado taxpayers to expect? Just one reason why the governor's honeymoon is over.

Denver Post: The Honeymoon is Over

The Denver Post also opines that the honeymoon is over:

Now, with a quarter of his term behind him and the honeymoon phase over, observers are watching to see whether Ritter overcomes political inexperience to lead his party through what could be an era of monumental reforms in health care, education and transportation.

Other nuggets included this comment on renewable energy:

But pushing renewable energy, by some accounts, wasn't really that contentious. Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 requiring some utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from renewables by 2015. And governors across the West were pushing proposals similar to Ritter's.

"There was really no cost attached to it," said political analyst Eric Sondermann. "The real thrust of the Ritter administration is as of yet undetermined. The rub is going to come very quickly."

The funniest comment:

"We can't find a blue ribbon anywhere in town," said Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany of Colorado Springs.

There is some really good stuff in this very long article. We strongly recommend that folks read it.

The Gazette: Honeymoon is Over

The Gazette headlined its article on Bill Ritter "The Honeymoon is Over."

2007 was the year of the study:

Other legislative watchers say he must do more this year than just discuss how to solve problems. After 12 months of study and talk, he and legislative Democrats must prioritize among the big three topics and pass some laws that at least begin to address the funding gaps in these areas, they say.

“I think it’s going to be a very important year . . . ’08 will really be the test,” said Floyd Ciruli, the pollster who came up with the 71 percent approval rating in September. “The first year went pretty well with the exception of the labor union issue. Now he’s got everything teed up, and he has to strike some balls.”

They got a quote from the ever quotable Senator Andy McElhany:

Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, criticized the governor for showing no agenda during his first year in office, despite the campaign goals he referred to as the Colorado Promise. Ritter seems to have no road map on how to meet even his worthy goals, such as reducing the high school dropout rate and insuring more Coloradans, he said.

Right now the only agenda I see is that he wants to raise a tax, but he doesn’t know which one and he doesn’t know what he wants to use the money for,” McElhany said.

OK, if the honeymoon is over, where are we likely to go from here? While The Gazette was silent on the subject, they did find someone to opine on the impact of 2008 on Bill Ritter in 2010:

John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said Ritter and the Legislature will be expected to make at least incremental progress this year but not gargantuan steps on all issues. This year may help to determine whether Ritter will face major opposition when he is up for re-election in 2010, but it will not seal his fate, he said.

January 5, 2008

Clear That This Guy Won't Vote for Ritter

We had to chuckle this morning when we got a Google alert that began:

Democrat Bill 'Slick Willie' Ritter is not only a liar, a coward, a fraud, a parasite, but also undeniably incompetent. When he was the Denver District Attorney he failed to do his job properly more than ninety percent of the time. ...

We're not endorsing this kind of writing, just observing that Bill Ritter has managed to arouse more and more vehement anti-Ritter passion since the election than he did before the election.

If you want to read the whole thing...

January 3, 2008

Bill Ritter and The World's Oldest Profession

More than a year ago, we wrote a blog entry that might have been called "A Ho House on Every Block." Not coincidentally, it was about a Bill Ritter campaign promise to build shooting ranges around the state that we knew he wouldn't keep. He didn't keep it but it got him votes, and that is what politics is all about, right? Big Blue Lie Machine.

The thing that amazed us at the time was that we had spoken to two Republicans who lived ten miles apart, both of whom would be voting for Ritter. Their reasons: One was certain that Ritter would bring gun control to Colorado and the other thought Ritter would protect hunter's rights. In 2006, Bill Ritter was all things to all people. Big Blue Lie Machine.

We were reminded of that essay and that theme when Bill Ritter said the following about TABOR:

Most, however, agree that if voters want the state to make health care and higher education more affordable or maintain and improve roads, the state as a whole needs to start untangling the constitution's fiscal knot.

Ritter views TABOR as the tightest part of that knot. He wants to maintain what he calls the "virtuous" part of TABOR, that requires a public vote on any tax increase or change in tax policy.

Isn't Bill Ritter in effect saying "If you look hard enough, you can find some virtue even in a Ho?" Can't you hear him saying "But my wife wants this Ho run out of town!"

January 2, 2008

Best of Times - Take 2

We don't get paid by the word, but perhaps Colorado Media Matters does.

Colorado Media Matters is one of the best barometers of potential political trouble for Democrats. When they go into defensive spin mode every fact is a lie and every lie is a fact to hear them tell it. The only important information one can get from their defensive pieces is that they think that the politician they are defending has problems with the issue they are writing about.

Today, it is, amazingly enough about what we called "The Biggest Bungle of 2007." They call it "Union Paradise." We'd guess that it is all a matter of perspective.

January 1, 2008

Ritter Number One

Colorado Biz named Bill Ritter as the most powerful individual in Colorado. The list is very interesting. It leans far to the left, but that might be an accurate reflection of current reality.