Friday, 29 Sep 2023

Colorado Republicans accuse Polis of electioneering with TABOR rebate letter

The head of the Colorado Republican Party filed a campaign finance complaint Thursday over a letter Gov. Jared Polis is sending to residents along with their tax rebate checks.

Polis, a Democrat, is seeking re-election this November. On Wednesday, he and other Democrats announced that Colorado taxpayers should be receiving $750 rebate checks by the end of August. The rebate of tax dollars collected over a certain cap is required under the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, though a law passed this year and signed by Polis declared this refund would be a flat amount mailed out directly.

The checks will come with a letter from Polis written on state letterhead. While it doesn’t directly attribute the check to TABOR — a sticking point for the GOP — it does attribute the rebate to state law. Polis also doesn’t shy away from taking at least partial credit for the amount.

“Colorado law limits how much the state can spend each year, and thanks to Colorado’s strong economic growth and our successful work to close special interest tax loopholes, we are able to put even more of your hard-earned money back in your pocket, and we’re doing it well ahead of schedule,” Polis writes in the letter. “At a time when inflation is causing increases in the cost of everyday items, we are committed to getting this money to you as quickly as possible.”

Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for the governor, said the letter is to make sure people understand how the new TABOR refund mechanism works and that they know where to go if there are further questions or errors in how the check is made out.

“We are focused on ensuring that people understand why they are receiving immediate relief in the form of $750 or $1,500 checks and that they don’t throw it away or treat it as spam,” Cahill said.

In the campaign finance complaint, the GOP accuses Polis of “promoting his own campaign instead of being honest with voters and informing them of the true source of the refund.”

“The governor is using taxpayer dollars to send his own campaign mailer, and this is a plain campaign finance violation,” the complaint alleges. “This letter is not in the ordinary course of business, as no Colorado governor has done this before — including Jared Polis.”

The complaint has an initial review deadline of Aug. 18.

While the new refund law passed with some Republican support in the legislature, the way it’s been promoted by Democrats has been the subject of much criticism from the right. State officials branded it the “Colorado Cash Back” program, leading some Republicans to accuse them of distancing the program from TABOR just a handful of years after trying to essentially end TABOR rebates under Proposition CC.

Voters rejected Proposition CC by nearly 54% to 46% in 2019.

“Jared Polis is blatantly using taxpayer dollars to help himself get re-elected,” Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said. “For years Jared Polis, Dave Young and Colorado Democrats fought to kill and undermine TABOR. Now they are using its benefits to lie to voters. This letter has Jared Polis’s name on it in three different areas, yet doesn’t mention TABOR once.”

In a statement, Cahill rejected the accusations and said the letter is part of the governor following the law.

“It’s unfortunate the Republican Party is wasting taxpayer money by filing this baseless complaint,” Cahill said. “The governor wants to assure Coloradans he will not allow these baseless attacks from preventing him from faithfully enacting the bi-partisan new law that is putting $750 back in the pockets of taxpayers faster.”

Polis won the 2018 governor’s race by more than 10 percentage points. He is facing University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl — the only Republican currently holding a statewide office — this November.

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