Unable to influence enough politicians at the statehouse--or browbeat enough voters at the polls--supporters of increased government spending took a new tact in Colorado--suing the state to raise taxes. Last Friday, District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled that Colorado spending on public education is "unconstitutionally low".
Colorado ranks 40th in the nation in terms of money spent per child on public education--at $8,167 per student. That is about 15-hundred dollars below the national average--and about three-thousand dollars less per student than what we spend here in Wisconsin. As a percentage of total state spending, Colorado puts 40-percent of its budget to K-12 education--to the tune of $3.2 Billion annually. Voters recently rejected a referendum to raise income and sales taxes by $2.9 Billion dollars over the next four years to increase school spending.
Of course, in her ruling Judge Rappaport didn't give lawmakers any idea what would be a "constitutional" amount to spend on public education. (Bigger Government supporters can never actually give you an amount that is "enough" for all of their programs. "Much more than we are spending now" seems to be the only answer they can provide.) However, the group that filed the lawsuit actually did have a number in mind: an additional FOUR BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR!
According to the plaintiffs, Colorado should spend 110% of it current budget for ALL STATE OPERATIONS just on K-12 education. That would take it from 40th in per student spending, to #1 in the nation--racing past New York and it's spendthrift $17-Thousand per child. And it would do it with no say from taxpayers or their elected officials. Needless to say, the State will be appealing the decision.
Now before you think "Wow, I'm glad I don't live in Colorado--cuz they're about to get screwed"--think about this: The blueprint has now been established for circumventing the will of the people in every other state. You don't think WEAC doesn't have a team of lawyers poring over all 183-pages of Judge Rappaport's ruling to find out if the same legal arguments can be applied here in Wisconsin? Sure, we spend about 15-hundred dollars more than the national average per child--but anything less than the Colorado levels must be a violation of those poor children's Constitutional right to a "thorough and uniform education system".
And it won't stop with the schools. Why go to referendum on a Wheel Tax, when you can just sue the City to provide a "thorough" Transit System--or the County to provide "uniform" end-of-life services to all of the elderly? Why not just dump State Legislatures, County Boards and City Councils all together and let judges and lawyers decide how much is "fair" to spend on public services?
If this decision is allowed to stand, we may all end up feeling like Leslie Nielsen as the Captain of the Poseidon--as he sees the tidal wave about to hit his ship: http://movieclips.com/P2jH-the-poseidon-adventure-movie-the-tidal-wave-hits/