Reporting Caldara's criticism of school finance proposal, Post failed to identify Independence Institute's conservative agenda

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In an article about Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's school finance proposal, The Denver Post quoted Independence Institute president Jon Caldara, who criticized the proposal as a "tax increase." But the newspaper failed to mention that the institute is a "free-market" conservative think tank.

A March 13 Denver Post article by Mark P. Couch noted Independence Institute president and anti-tax crusader Jon Caldara's criticism of Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) school finance proposal, but it failed to identify the Independence Institute as a "free-market, pro-freedom" conservative policy research organization.

As the Post reported, Ritter's school finance proposal would "freeze property-tax rates statewide -- allowing schools to collect as much as $63.6 million more next year than they would if rates were allowed to decrease." The article further reported:

Freezing property-tax rates is a potentially controversial move.

"Let me make it very clear: That's called a tax increase," said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a think tank based in Golden. "If taxes were going to go down and action is taken to prevent them from going down, that's a tax increase. Get used to it. Democrats are in control. This is the first of many."

In contrast, an Associated Press article about Ritter's proposal published March 13 on the Post's website identified Caldara as "president of the conservative Independence Institute think tank."

According to its website, the Independence Institute "addresses a broad variety of public policy issues from a free-market, pro-freedom perspective," as Colorado Media Matters has noted. The Independence Institute's website also notes:

Unlike other organizations which see government intervention as the only solution, the Independence Institute seeks to explore all alternatives, emphasizing private-sector and community-based solutions. The Independence Institute is recognized by friend and foe alike as one of the most effective organizations at setting a freedom agenda for Colorado and the United States.

From the March 13 article by Mark P. Couch, "Property taxes to be frozen," in The Denver Post:

Gov. Bill Ritter plans to announce a school-finance proposal today that would freeze property-tax rates statewide -- allowing schools to collect as much as $63.6 million more next year than they would if rates were allowed to decrease.

At the same time, Ritter is expected to dump a proposal to use federal mineral lease revenues to cover some school costs -- an idea that prompted outcries from West Slope interests who want the money to cope with the impacts of oil and gas drilling.

The proposal to freeze property-tax rates has bounced around the Capitol this year as a way to resolve an impending funding crisis for K-12 public schools.

Current financial projections for the state show that spending caps and mandatory increases for school spending are combining to pull money away from other state programs like universities and human services.

Evan Dreyer, spokesman for Ritter, declined to discuss details of the governor's property-tax proposal. He said Ritter plans to hold a news conference today in Northglenn. "It's about school financing," Dreyer said.

Freezing property-tax rates is a potentially controversial move.

"Let me make it very clear: That's called a tax increase," said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a think tank based in Golden. "If taxes were going to go down and action is taken to prevent them from going down, that's a tax increase. Get used to it. Democrats are in control. This is the first of many."

Lawmakers defend the action as a way to cure a problem caused by conflicting constitutional amendments.

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