Archive for October, 2010

Surprise Poll in CD-1

A new poll has come to light, showing Republican Mike Fallon trailing longtime paperweight Representative Diana DeGette by only 10 points, with DeGette unable to break 50%.  The telephone poll of 700 likely voters has DeGette at 44%, Fallon at 34%, and the undecideds at 22.5%.  The poll was conducted by ccAdvertising, one of the larger national Republican polling firms, and has a margin of error of 3%.

A couple of things to note.  First, as mentioned above, DeGette is under 50% in a district she’s held for, well, forever.  The pollsters did adjust for expected voter turnout, using a fairly complex model.  I have no idea how their track record for accuracy compares to, say, Rasmussen.

I also note that the sample appears to over-weight Republicans considerably, with the D-R-U breakdown coming in at 40-31-28.  The actual voter registration in Denver is about 50-20-30.  That said, the party breakdown is a result of voter self-identification.  The pollsters apparently called in the prevailing proportions, but about 10 percentage points’ worth of Democrats refused to identify themselves as Dems, calling themselves Republicans or unaffiliated instead.  How to treat party identification is an unresolved problem in poll methodology, but in this case, the pollsters are also trying to account for expected turnout, and probably used self-identification as a response rather than a demographic.

Again, assuming the pollsters called representative proportions of likely voters, 48% of those responding favor repealing Obamacare, while 52% oppose.  This is more favorably disposed to Obamacare than the national average, but indicates a high level of dissatisfaction with the law even in a heavily Democrat area like Denver, and is no doubt contributing to Fallon’s support.  Mike’s an ER doctor, and has made actual health care reform a keystone of his campaign.

Does this mean that the race is winnable?  That last 10 points is going to be awfully hard to make up, but the pollsters look at that 22% undecided as a gold mine of potential votes.  After 18 years, DeGette’s a known quantity, and she probably can’t say much about herself that will move the needle in her direction.  More Republicans are undecided than Dems, indicating, perhaps, that they still haven’t heard much about Mike. And over 45% of Unaffiliated voters are undecided.  Of those unaffiliated voters, though, many are probably Dems no longer willing to call themselves Dems to pollsters, who are still probably inclined to vote Democrat.  ccAdvertising thinks that the undecideds could well break 9-1 for Mike.  While I think that’s an extraordinarily optimistic projection, in reality, they’d only have to break a little better than 5-2 for him to actually win the seat, assuming that the partisan breakdown is correct.

All in all, this has got to be good news for Fallon; I just wish it had come a month ago.

UPDATE: Welcome NRO readers!  When you’re done, feel free to go over to my own campaign website, at SharfColorado.

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Public Pensions, Public Purse

On the campaign trail, I’ve spoken to any number of public employees and retirees who are worried about PERA, understand the problems, and who recognize the system needs to be changed.  Some retirees are even willing to take cuts themselves, although I think asking them to do so would be a breach of faith.  Employees and even reitrees are clearly more flexible on this issue than their unions are.  To his credit, Mayor Hickenlooper has proposed changes to Denver’s pensions to try to make it more solvent:

For future employees only, the proposal would increase the minimum retirement age from 55 to 60, further decrease the pensions of those who retire early and increase the time required for vesting from five years to seven years….

This year, city workers had to contribute an extra 2 percent of their paychecks to offset losses in the pension fund’s investments…
The most recent analysis shows the pension plan ended December 2009 with 88.4 percent of its obligations funded, better than many other public pension plans, including the one for state workers.

Now, an 88.4% funded status is excellent, especially given the status of other public pensions.  It speaks well of the conservative management of plan assets, although it’s worth noting that Denver may be using the expected return as the discount rate, rather than the level of obligation, which would overstate the plan’s funded status.  (Full disclosure: I’m friends with Steve Hutt, who attends my synagogue, and haven’t had a chance to ask him what discount rate the plan uses.)

Nevertheless, defined benefit plans will almost always encounter, over their lifetimes, a rough patch rough enough to make them insolvent without greater contributions.  The Mayor’s efforts are better than doing nothing, but will face opposition in the City Council from unions, and don’t address the fundamental problem of making promises the city can’t keep.

This is important, because dealing with PERA will be an important job of the next governor and legislature.  According to Business Insider, Colorado’s pension fund is only 12 years away from actual insolvency, 8th-worst in the country.  Unless we deal with this, by getting obligations to current and imminent retirees fully funded, and then converting to a defined contribution plan for new and younger state employees, we will end up bankrupting the state.  Pension obligations – backed by unions whose greed is not representative of their members – will eat us alive, leaving almost nothing for actual services and functions.

I’m not sure that John Hickenlooper is willing to make that decision, but I am certain that the current legislative majority isn’t.  We need to elect one that is.

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Support Amendment 63

Contrary to the headline in this week’s Intermountain Jewish News, I support Amendment 63.  Here’s the full text of the letter to the editor, which Hillel Goldberg was kind enough to print:

Last week, the Jewish Community Relations Council voted note to take a position on Amendment 63.  While that was the correct decision, as voters, we should strongly support Amendment 63, the Right to Health Care Choice initiative.

Amendment 63 does two things: it keeps the state of Colorado from enforcing any state or federal health insurance mandate, and it ensures that Coloradans will always be able to spend their own money on their own health care, unless they voluntarily enter a program that prevents it.  These are protections of fundamental rights that we have as human beings.

Member organizations indicated that they knew of beneficiaries of their services who might not be able to obtain insurance, or had undergone serious financial hardship from medical expense.  Their conclusion is that the best solution to this problem is Obamacare.

In fact, the law’s benefits will prove illusory.  Both organizations explicitly said that the benefits depend on the mandate.  Implicit is that Obamacare isn’t insurance, it’s a direct transfer of wealth.

We can easily point to those who benefit; it’s much harder to point to those individuals who will bear the cost – young workers and families who are just starting out, but who will be forced to pay for benefits that they will not receive.  It’s a shame they have no advocate on the Council.

Instead of forcing young workers and families to transfer what should be their house, education, or retirement savings to the government, we should make their insurance more affordable by removing unused, expensive mandates that price them out of the market in the first place.

It has been claimed that Obamacare will save $1 trillion.  This double-counts $500 billion taken from Medicare, re-spending it, and classifying it as savings.  It includes 6 years of benefits for 10 years of revenue, and assumes Congress will cease an annual Medicare adjustment – the “doc fix” – that everyone expects will continue unabated.  After 10 years, it will add to our already gargantuan $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities.  No one reading (or writing) this piece truly comprehends that number.  But we’ll have to pay it.

Instead of strengthening our system, the law’s deleterious effects are already being felt.  Insurers are raising rates in anticipation of greater obligations.  Insurers are dropping child-only coverage.  Low-cost insurance policies for college students are endangered.  Employers are shifting costs to those who still have jobs, who will pay with after-tax dollars.  It will likely cost small insurance companies and brokers their businesses.  The IRS has asked to hire 17,000 new employees to enforce the provisions, a deadweight loss of billions to the economy.

While the effects of the current system on those organization’s members are real, by focusing on those needs as an excuse to oppose Amendment 63, the member organizations assume that the only, or even the best, way to address those needs is the current legislation.  Instead, we should encourage innovation and implement incentives for health care consumers to spend their dollars wisely, lowering costs for all.

There is good reason that the JCRC did not take a position.  It generally doesn’t take on these sorts of issues, preferring to conserve its voice for issues of distinctive importance to the Jewish community.  Supporting Obamacare would have placed the JCRC at odds with the 60% of Americans who want the thing repealed outright.  Instead of building bridges, it’s likely to isolate us, dilute our voice, and prevent us from being effective in the future.

Earlier this year, voters in Missouri approved a similar measure by a whopping 71% – 29%.  Voters in Arizona and Oklahome will likely also approve similar measures in a few weeks.  Democrats in 5 other state legislatures have blocked measures from their states’ ballots this fall, but count on them to be re-introduced this coming year.

Coloradans should seize the chance to protect our own health care choices, and continue the efforts to find sensible fixes to our troubled health care system.

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Representing Our District

One of the frustrations in any local campaign is the limited opportunity to appear on the same stage as your opponent. Such appearances help to draw clear contrasts between the candidates, and if conducted well, and great opportunities for the voters to understand the choices in front of them.

We had one of those rare chances yesterday at Windsor Gardens Political Day. I’ll post the video of the whole thing later today, but what struck me most was my opponent’s claim that she votes how her constituents would vote on a given issue. In fact, her priorities seem to be far more arcane and abstruse than the concerns I’ve heard people talking about, and had she held more than three town hall meetings in the last two years, Rep. Court might have known that. When I knock on people’s doors, we talk about the budget, the economy, jobs, and education. Rep. Court’s priorities are public financing of campaigns.

It’s also telling that she touted not her infrequent town halls, but her equally infrequent Civics for Citizens lectures. While a more educated electorate is in everyone’s interest, a town hall implies listening, whereas in a lecture, the communication is from the lectern to the audience. Nobody of any political persuasion wants a representative who decides how to vote by putting a finger up to the wind, but still less do they want who who tries to divine what they would do on important issues without the benefit of meeting with them.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve spent so much time knocking on doors this election year, and the reason that I’ll continue to do so even after I’m elected. And it’s the main reason that I’ve committed to bi-weekly town halls during the legislative session. It’s something that many of Lois’s colleagues do, and it’s really the least that we owe the voters who elected us.

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“I Am the Republican Party”

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HD-6 Press Coverage

The Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle‘s distribution area pretty much mirrors HD-6, so it’s not entirely surprising that they gave some coverage to the race in their most recent issue. You can see the article here, but why not go out and pick up a copy of the entire paper?

To whet your appetite, here’s the ad we ran in the paper:

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House Republicans’ Platform – Economy

Unlike the Jobs plank, which is focused on directly creating jobs, the Economy plank recognizes that in the long run (and even in the short-run), the best way to create jobs is to revitalize the economy as a whole.  The private sector creates jobs, so let’s make it easier for markets to operate.  Here’s how:

  • Incentivize large-scale business investment in manufacturing, aerospace and other high-wage sectors by phasing out the Business Personal Property Tax.

This is, perhaps, the worst tax we have in the state, among the most destructive, and phasing it out – now, when the projected deficit is manageable – will let the economy grow to help fill the gaps in the out years.  If the economy doesn’t grow, extracting more money from it for government isn’t going to be possible, anyway.

  • Improve the state commitment to biotechnology and biosciences by building on a 2008 package that provided some $26 million assistance for Colorado start-up companies24 and research institutions seeking to commercialize new technology.

Yes, we saw this before, under Jobs.  But it’s worth repeating: research doesn’t do any good unless it’s commercialized, and when it is, it helps bring down costs, save lives, and raise our standard of living, as well as provide the sorts of jobs that a well-educated state like Colorado, and a well-educated district like HD-6 can take advantage of.

  • Revisit and revise the new oil and gas regulations that have contributed to a steeper decline for the natural gas industry in Colorado than in nearby states.
  • Review Colorado’s regulatory environment, and support sensible expansion of Colorado’s coal production.

Not only does this take away direct jobs, it also derails indirect job creation.  The legislature slapped a new, 2.9% tax on energy for industrial purposes, something that had never existed in the history of Colorado sales taxes.  That tax will take an average of $2000 out of the pockets of employees in a Pueblo steel mill with a profit-sharing plan, according to the Denver Post. We have abundant energy resources here in the state, let’s make the best, environmentally-friendly use of them.

  • Prioritize infrastructure investment which coordinates government and free enterprise initiatives to ensure a cutting edge multi-model transportation system — an essential component to a thriving economy.

OK, this is a little wordy.  But infrastructure matters.  I’m not a big fan of big, shiny, inflexible, expensive, and usually empty, commuter rail systems.  But if we want to find a way to make commuter rail work, like it does with the Virginia Rail Express and the MARC trains around DC, let’s at least see if the tracks exist and some company is willing to bring in the rolling stock to give it a try.

There are also two suggestions for limiting health insurance and health care costs, which are creating an increasing burden on the state’s employers and individuals:

  • Protect employers and consumers by enhancing Colorado’s protections against junk lawsuits.
    • Require plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits to demonstrate a bona fide medical and legal issue before a lawsuit can proceed to the cost-intensive trial phase.
  • Expand access to affordable health care choices by lifting restrictions on the purchase of health insurance across state lines

Prove that you have something really wrong, and don’t assume that bureaucrats in Colorado know more than bureaucrats everywhere else about what citizens need or want in insurance.  In 2009, HB09-1256, which would have done just that, was killed by the current legislative majority.  I’d add one thing more: a moratorium on new health insurance mandates without an analysis of how much they’ll cost consumers, and an analysis of how much existing mandates already add to our insurance bills.  My opponent voted to kill such a bill, HB10-1154, in the most recent session, showing a deep lack of understanding about the avaialbility of free lunches.

You can tie down an economy through a thousand little strings, like Gulliver at the hands of the Lilliputians, or you can find a way to free it by starting to cut those strings.  I think it’s clear which course is the more productive.

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Colorado UpLift

Kathy Emmons, an erstwhile campaign volunteer, but also a volunteer for a terrific organization, Colorado Uplift.  It started out as a way to find jobs for inner-city youths, but they quickly saw that the kids were bringing all the bad habits of their young lifetimes to these jobs, and thus weren’t doing themselves or their employers any good, and certainly weren’t enhancing the reputation of the program.  So they decided instead to mentor the kids in-school and after-school in character traits and life skills for their success.

This is exactly the kind of program that’s worthy of your support; give it a look.

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