Let’s cut first, then tax later

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By Rob Witwer

Last week, Colorado voters roundly rejected a slate of proposed tax increases. The largest of these, Proposition 103, would have raised state income taxes from the current 4.63 percent to 5 percent for five years. Had it passed, the state legislature would have decided how to spend the proceeds on education.
Voters said “no” by nearly a two-to-one margin.
The Denver Post quoted the measure’s architect, state Sen. Rollie Heath, as saying, “Maybe when this economy turns around, and people feel a little more confident with their personal situations, people will be a little more willing to talk about it.”
Heath may be right, but I think there’s more to it than that. There’s no doubt that cuts in education funding are a serious and long-term problem for this community and communities across the nation. Very simply, we are failing to do all we can to prepare our kids to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.  
But at the same time voters see education funding being cut, we see the federal government bailing out Wall Street, dropping hundreds of billions on “Stimulus” packages, spending millions on TV ads during the Super Bowl to tout the census, pouring hundreds of millions into now-bankrupt companies like Solyndra, and building bridges to nowhere.
See the disconnect? Voters believe that new taxes will be used only to increase government spending, not hold the line.
Sen. Heath may reply that the state isn’t to blame for federal excesses, and he’d be right. But at a time taxpayers are tightening their own belts, the appetite for turning over a greater share of dwindling family resources to any government is diminished, to say the least.
I think the vast majority of the public supports education. It’s the politicians we don’t trust. Let’s face it: Government has a pretty profligate track record with the money we’ve already given it.
Until that trust is repaired, we’re going to hold onto our wallets.
I’d humbly suggest that those who advocate new taxes — especially during a recession — have every reason to become the biggest budget hawks on the block. If they prove they’re willing to make tough sacrifices (i.e., cuts) at the federal, state and local levels, then they will have the credibility to come back and ask for more.

Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care.”