By Todd Shepherd | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper has yet to weigh in on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock‘s proposal to give Denver greater freedom to raise city taxes via a November vote.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment, and Hickenlooper hasn’t taken a clear position on Hancock’s plan to allow Denver voters to strip key provisions from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), but only as those provisions apply to the city.
How deeply Hickenlooper believes in TABOR isn’t known, but there are clues from his years as mayor, and from the 2010 campaign trail as well.
The online blog WhoSaidYouSaid.com reports Hickenlooper praised the fundamental principle behind TABOR during his gubernatorial campaign. “One of the real reasons that I’m a believer in TABOR, right … I think if you put issues before the public, they’ll decide whether it’s a worthwhile investment,” Hickenlooper said at a Douglas County Business Alliance meeting in May of 2010.
Overall, the statement is in alignment with the way Hickenlooper worked in his eight years as mayor of Denver. During his tenure, Hickenlooper became known for his funny — some called them “daring” — commercials in which he donned the costume of a blue bear, or jumped from a plane, to pitch tax increases to the voting public of Denver. Most of those tax increases were approved. But in nearly all of those cases, Hickenlooper seemed to show deference to the idea that taxes should be approved by a majority vote.
TABOR was adopted as a state constitutional amendment in 1992, and requires governments to obtain approval of any tax increase by popular vote. It also limits the amount of government revenue that can be obtained from property taxes.
Pollster and local political analyst Floyd Ciruli said he believes the TABOR fight is probably one that Hickenlooper won’t wade into.
“As you recall, he got some criticism last year for not endorsing or stating what his position was related to (State Sen.) Rollie Heath‘s school funding initiative. So I’d be surprised if he is going to weigh in on a tax initiative in Denver,” Ciruli said.
While the governor certainly has remained aloof on certain questions like the Heath tax question, he still has shown a willingness to throw his weight around in Denver. Hickenlooper vetoed former Mayor Bill Vidal‘s idea of running to officially become the Denver mayor through a vote of the people (Vidal had only been appointed mayor after Hickenlooper left the office when he was elected governor). Hickenlooper also came out strongly against a ballot question that would have required Denver businesses to provide mandatory paid sick-leave.
Hancock chose the TABOR-override option out of 29 total recommendations from a task force formed to address the issue of Denver’s estimated $30-million budget gap. The question must be approved by the city council before it can appear on the ballot of Denver voters in November.
From the WhoSaidYouSaid blog, watch McInnis’ comments on Hickenlooper and TABOR.