Rocky: State’s help to Ritter tax hike would be campaign contribution

In In the News, Notes by Mark Hillman

Kudos to Vincent Carroll at the Rocky Mountain News who noted in today’s On Point column that it’s a little late for Gov. Bill Ritter and his tax-hiking buddies to be fleshing out the details of how their oil and gas tax increase will be showered upon lucky college students.

Unfortunately, the time to provide such details has passed. Government agencies are barred from spending public money to influence the fate of a ballot initiative. If the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which Skaggs directs, draws up rules for the scholarships that help the measure pass, as they very likely would, then that work would amount to an “in-kind” campaign contribution.

Carroll also noted that higher ed chief David Skaggs is in a tough spot on this one:

I sympathize with Skaggs’ dilemma: He can set his agency to work now and risk violating the law or wait until November and, if the measure passes, risk running afoul of the new law’s 2009 timetable

I doubt Mr. Skaggs asked for this quandary. Despite my political disagreements with the former Boulder congressman, Mr. Skaggs has always struck me as a man of class and principle, and I thought it was quite a coup when Gov. Ritter convinced him to join his cabinet. I don’t envy the position in which he now finds himself, thanks to yet another not-ready-for-primetime policy proposal by our rookie governor.

An aside: You will remember how Ritter campaigned on his “Colorado Promise.” To propose that these scholarships paid by higher oil and gas taxes be named “Colorado Promise” scholarships is an unseemly exercise in legacy building for someone whose first year and a half on the job has been undistinguished.