Jan 252010
Authors: Josh Phillips, Kevin Hollinshead

Don’t hastily raise taxes
By Josh Phillips

Colorado’s higher education crisis is a lake of problems, fed by a dozen different streams and rivers. While the lake threatens to flood the surrounding countryside, Colorado lawmakers are scrambling to find some way to ease the disaster.

Some have suggested that we immediately raise taxes to solve the problem.

Metaphorically speaking, we would merely be granting our problematic lake more space than it was originally allotted.

The seemingly insurmountable task, however, lies in reducing the rivers and streams that feed the lake — the copious amount of problems contributing to the higher education crisis.

Raising taxes may provide a short-term fix, but at some point, we will realize that the lake is ever-expanding and that perhaps a more overarching solution should be sought. Hastily raising taxes only addresses the symptoms rather than the root of the problem.

Some argue that we could raise taxes temporarily and reduce them after the problem has been solved. But when have politicians ever willingly lowered taxes? Why should we trust them to do so now?

Another proposed solution is program cuts within universities, including CSU. Unfortunately, that would seem like the best fix for the moment, as it tackles the source of the problem rather than the symptoms.

Besides, cleaning house and removing wasteful expenditures is a very basic business agenda that Colorado State should be adopting every year, regardless of Colorado’s budget.
TABOR makes bad situation worse*
By Kevin Hollinshead

The Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights sounds appealing on the surface. In reality, it has exacerbated Colorado’s higher education crisis by limiting sorely-needed tax revenue.

TABOR prohibits lawmakers from implementing legislation that raises taxes without voter approval. It also includes language that dictates excess revenue be refunded to taxpayers.

This has resulted in a decrease in per capita tax revenue for the state, which means less per capita higher education funding (Colorado is ranked 45th among states, respectively). Because higher education is one of the few programs not legally bound to grow by a certain amount each year, funding for it has been slowly “squeezed out” of the proverbial pie.

Colorado’s public universities and community colleges have resorted to drastic measures to make up for decimated budgets, including tuition hikes and higher student fees, reducing or eliminating funding to extracurricular programs, reducing pay for faculty and staff or laying them off.

While higher education itself isn’t an entitlement, students are entitled to adequate facilities, robust campus services and experienced instructors if they’re shelling out thousands of dollars to attend college.

While streamlining or cutting wasteful programs at CSU would certainly help this funding crisis, the real issue is that many Colorado residents just don’t like the idea of paying for higher education.

Not all taxes are inherently evil –– far from it. Social programs such as higher education funding are an investment that helps communities prosper long-term.

Loosening the provisions of TABOR would allow lawmakers to better respond to budgetary woes instead of having to jump through unnecessary hoops. Low tax revenue gets us in situations like this; it’s time for Colorado to better embrace the merits of increased taxation, at least for something with societal value like higher education.

 Posted by at 2:29 pm

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