10 October 2005

Harsanyi Wrong As Usual.

David Harsanyi is a conservative columnist for the Denver Post. Of course, it is difficult to support your views with facts and write conservative columns at the same time, so he, like many conservative columnists, has to twist the facts to support his points. His latest effort concerns Referrendum C, which would relax the TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) rules in Colorado to allow the state to spend the money that it collects with existing taxes over the next five years.

He says:

Next time you're in downtown Denver, a city where the unemployment rate already stands at a minuscule 4.9 percent, one of the lowest in the nation, walk past the almost completed Hyatt Regency, which will create an additional 560 new jobs.

You'll notice that the Hyatt stands next to a new convention center, which is not far from the new wing of the Denver Art Museum, which is not too far from a brand-new parking garage for legislators.

Get in your car. Drive past the newly renovated Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature & Science. Turn onto Montview Boulevard in Park Hill and head east. Here you'll be hit by a spectacular display of groupthink, a forest of "Yes on C&D" yard signs house after house ... or, rather, mansion after mansion.

Oh, the suffering.

This groupthink continues in nearby Stapleton, a symbol of the booming economy. Here complaints about the budget are even less credible, as they're building schools faster than inhabitants can squeeze out the allotted 2.5 kids.

Stapleton not only sits close to the new Children's Hospital and University of Colorado Health Sciences Center but is also next to lower-income neighborhoods, reaping dividends from it all.

Yet, we're supposed to believe the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights was a failure?

He fails to note is that local equivalents of Referendum C, which also relaxed TABOR limits, made most of these projects possible. Denver is moving forward precisely because it has repeatedly voted to override TABOR. It did so to build the Justice Center, to build the Convention Center and connected hotel, to expand and rennovate the Art Museum, Nature and Science Museum, and Zoo. New schools in Stapleton are substantially financed with impact fees imposed on developers in the area. And, what is making the new Fitzsimmons Biotechnology Center possible? Mostly, Defense Department base closings (which also made the Lowry development possible). Also, does he think that DIA, which replaced Stapleton Airport in Denver, was built out of Denver's general operating funds?

Denver is a rapidly growing city that has added more new neighborhoods in the past decade than most century plus old cities have added in the last half century or more. The growth has been largely led by government officials in the municipal government with a vision for their city, not by private developers. For example, both Lowry and Stapleton are formerly government owned properties which were redeveloped by redevelopment agencies run by government appointees.

And, the Health Sciences Center that Haryansi mentions? It is a division of the University of Colorado which will see the highest tuition increases of any unit of the University in the event of the budget cuts to CU that a Referrendum C defeat almost certainly implies, and which might even have to shut down. You can't cut hundreds of millions of dollars from higher education (which includes medical schools) in a single year and expect there to be no consequences.

David, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The government projects which you yourself acknowledge are symbols of a thriving economy have to be paid for somehow, and for the most part, they came into being despite TABOR and not because of it. The vast majority of local governments in Colorado have, by citizen vote, overrided the spending limitations imposed by TABOR on at least some occassions, and it is only natural that the state do so as well if this state is to thrive.

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