For the Taxpayers and For the Children: Ben DeGrow on Colorado Springs TV

I’ve been doing a really good job cutting back on using “It’s For the Kids” in my blog logic, right? Well, that doesn’t stop certain groups from wanting to undermine Colorado voters’ rights to decide on taxes by insisting it’s “for the children.”

Hats off to Colorado Springs News 5 reporter Andy Koen for seeking out a different point of view on the “Great Futures Colorado” proposal to enable the legislature to raise taxes — as long as the revenues fund the education system (preschool through college). One of my Education Policy Center friends got on camera with Koen to explain the problem:

But Ben DeGrow of the conservative think tank the Independence Institute says this proposal skirts the intent of the Tax Payers Bill of Rights (TABOR) which requires voter approval for all tax increases.

“The fact that they’re trying to take away the voters right to decide on tax increases at the local level in education is a matter of great concern,” DeGrow said.

Under TABOR, voters at the local level can decide whether more money is needed for education. But this new proposal introduced yesterday would open up currently 52 percent of the state’s General Fund budget (and 39 percent of the state’s total appropriations) to increased spending beyond the reasonable limitations of TABOR. [see FY09-10 Joint Budget Committee appropriations report, pages 12 and 13]

Never mind that Colorado’s K-12 per-pupil spending alone has grown by 25 percent above inflation over the past two decades and stands at more than $10,000 as of 2007.

Ben also said the current unprecedented budget difficulties faced by many Colorado school districts “should be looked at as an opportunity to fix those problems in the system with the way we spend money rather than looking at adding more money through taxes.” As he pointed out before at the Ed News Colorado blog, all signs ahead are of a bigger long-term fiscal crisis for education that necessitates some serious and specific reforms on the spending side.

Still, I suspect some might say that Ben’s deep skepticism of the new tax hike-authorizing proposal places him squarely against the children. Well, speaking as a certified kid, I don’t think so. And check out the News 5 video at the 1:05 mark. I bet whoever drew those pictures on his office wall and decorated them with leaves (hint: it wasn’t me) probably doesn’t think he’s against the children either — at least not most of the time.