The Democrat-controlled legislature is back in session. Open your wallets.
The latest scheme to separate you from your money because the government can spend it more wisely than you comes to us from Democrat Sen. Mike Johnson, who thinks that it would be just peachy if Colorado voters agreed to a tax increase so that Colorado's well-heeled school districts could pay for their less-fortunate counterparts.
The figure being bandied about at present is $1 billion, which Sen. Johnson notes is the amount "stripped away" from K-12 education over the past few years. An oft-repeated but curious assertion, since a review shows increases for education each year since 2007 save one: 2010, when Gov. Hickenlooper stripped $375 million out of the education budget to help fund Medicaid. Perhaps this indicates that more remedial instruction in math is required - but not for children.
Subtracted or not, the senator says the additional billion dollars is needed to address "equity" issues in Colorado's funding for education. For those who haven't been paying attention, "equity" is the new word for "fairness."
What does this mean to us? Proposed changes to calculations in the state's funding mechanisms for education will take into account not a school district's actual support through local levies, but rather a state bureaucrat's estimate of what the district is "able" to collect in taxes, based on average incomes and local property values. Rest assured, for Summit County this figure will be substantially greater than what we raise at present. The amount of money Summit School District receives from the state will then be reduced by this amount, so that schools in the San Luis Valley may receive more.
This step in Senator Johnson's plan has not been made explicit, but it will happen. Because state funds are mutable, this will be the mechanism to achieve the ever-present Democrat goal of transferring wealth from those who have it to those who do not, through the hands of the state - thus accruing favor from the recipients for those who control the flow of dollars.
In other words, your pocket will be emptied to buy votes for those who take your money. Don't frown; this is the sort of government Colorado has apparently decided it wants. And the students in our state's "poorer districts" will certainly appreciate your cash.
What will the additional money buy? Three categories of spending not in the present system are "talent retention," which usually involves giving people more salary; an "innovation fund," as though we do not fund innovation now - as long as school choice is not involved; and the biggie, "Mill Levy equalization." There are also increases for special education, "gifted and talented" programs and all-day kindergarten.
Will a billion dollars a year be enough for all this? Doubtful. The public education establishment is insatiable; as generous as we can be, it will never be enough. As proof, we may consider the "Lobato" lawsuit, brought last year by a consortium of students, parents, educrats and associated types wanting to do good with other people's money.
Briefly, the suit claimed that Colorado does not "adequately" fund k-12 education, as required by the state constitution - which actually uses that term. Lower courts have found for the plaintiffs, which may underline the necessity for precision of speech when drafting a constitution, or illustrate the dangers inherent in allowing a bureaucrat the slightest whiff of enhanced funding, or reaffirm that significant elements of Colorado's judiciary are phoning it in from Planet Ten. Or some combination of all three.
Whichever it is, the "Lobato" case is proceeding to the state Supreme Court, where oral arguments are scheduled for March. If the Justices are of a mind with their colleagues, and there is little history to suggest the contrary, "Lobato" will be upheld and Sen. Johnson's billion-dollar-per-year raid on the wallets of Colorado's taxpayers will be quadrupled, at a minimum. Since it will be a court-mandated amount, there's no need for any of that inconvenient ask-the-taxpayers Rollie Heath Prop103 nonsense.
$4 billion represents an approximate 20 percent jump in overall state spending, an amount that will probably be well beyond Colorado's tax capacity even if 2006-07 growth rates were to return. One of the more politically palatable alternatives in this situation would be to strip all state support for our wealthier school districts, shifting the aid to the less well-heeled and allowing the plutocrats to fend for themselves. That would include Summit County, in case there is doubt. All in the interest of "equity," of course.
Ah, tax-and-spend. There's nothing quite like it, is there? As long as you're on the spending side, that is...
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.