Former Colorado Senate president John Andrews claimed on his May 13 Backbone Radio broadcast that he was “misled” and “snookered” into voting for a 2004 measure that proposed to freeze state property tax rates in much the same manner as the recently concluded legislative session's Senate Bill 199. Andrews and other state Republicans repeatedly have criticized the Democratic-sponsored SB 199 as a tax increase.
On his May 13 Backbone Radio broadcast, KNUS 710 AM host John Andrews asserted that in 2004 he was “misled” and “unknowingly” voted for a bill that “contained that same provision” as Senate Bill 199, which proposed to freeze property tax rates to fund education. Later in the broadcast, during an interview with Republican Senate Minority Leader Andrew McElhany (Colorado Springs), Andrews further claimed to have been “snookered” by former Republican Sen. Norma Anderson who, according to Andrews, “slipped into the School Finance Act of 2004 an amendment that would have done this stealth tax increase.”
In claiming that he did not understand what he was voting in favor of while serving as president of the Colorado Senate, Andrews echoed McElhany, who previously had stated that Republicans who supported the 2004 property tax rate freeze “voted for a bill they didn't understand,” as The Denver Post reported May 2. Andrews and McElhany have been outspoken critics of SB 199, calling it a tax increase. Ritter signed the bill into law on May 9.
As an April 30 Denver Post editorial noted, “Republican strategists, led by Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, have tried to paint the property tax freeze as a tax increase. But it is nothing of the kind -- as Republicans themselves recognized in 2004 when they passed the very same plan in what was then a Republican-controlled Senate.” The Post further noted that "[e]ven then-Senate President John Andrews, whose aversion to tax increases is legendary, voted for the freeze."
After referring to the current property tax freeze proposal as a “1.8 billion-dollar property tax increase” on his May 13 broadcast, Andrews claimed he “was misled into voting for a bill that contained that same provision in 2004.” He also stated that he never would have supported the 2004 measure “if [he] had known what was in the bill.” Later, Andrews added that he “and a lot of other Republicans were essentially snookered” into voting for Senate Amendment 1 of House Bill 1397.
According to a 2004 Senate Committee of Reference Report, the amendment to freeze property tax rates was issued in the legislature on April 6, 2004. Furthermore, the Senate Journal from April 7, 2004, notes the amendment was "[p]rinted in Senate Journal, April 6 , pages 733-734 and placed in members' bill files." The measure passed in second reading in the Senate on April 6 "[a]s amended, ordered revised and [was] placed on the calendar for Third Reading," for April 8. While there is no record of Andrews' specific vote on the second reading in the journal -- which doesn't always record members' second reading votes -- the journal does show he was present April 6. The April 8 journal also notes that the measure was "[l]aid over until Monday, April 12," the date on which Andrews voted in favor of it on the Senate floor -- six days after the Senate Committee of Reference Report was issued.
Andrews stated later in the broadcast that McElhany as well as former state senator and current U.S. Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn “were the only two Republicans who were wise enough to say 'no' ” to the amendment “on the Senate floor.” After Andrews suggested that McElhany and Lamborn got a “heads-up [on the property tax freeze proposal] from Keith King,” the Republican House sponsor of the 2004 measure, McElhany said King “called us and said, you guys, are, are you voting for this enormous property tax increase, and accused me of voting for it in committee, and I said, 'No way.' ” McElhany and Andrews did not discuss whether King gave a “heads-up” to any of the other Republican senators who voted in favor of the measure, or whether McElhany or Lamborn did so once they were alerted.
From the May 13 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio:
ANDREWS: Krista, I think it's because I'm, I am reliving some of the battles of my final --
KAFER: You're only three years behind.
ANDREWS: -- legislative session as a --
KAFER: That's OK.
ANDREWS: -- state senator. And we'll get to this a little later, but there, there has been a flurry about whether sen --, then-Senator Andrews actually supported the Bill Ritter idea to freeze everyone's school mill levy across the school districts and every corner of Colorado, consequently setting in motion a 1.8 billion-dollar property tax increase.
KAFER: Isn't that unconstitutional?
ANDREWS: I, I -- and we'll talk more about this in detail when we get Senator Andy McElhany, the Republican leader of the Colorado Senate, with us a bit later in the show. But, but briefly, I -- I was misled into voting for a bill that contained that same provision in 2004. The bill ultimately was changed, cleaned up in the House, and as passed we put no such thing into law, nor would I have ever supported it if I had known what was in the bill. But I was researching earlier this afternoon in the Senate journals from April to May 2004 to find out what on earth -- why would I have unknowingly voted for a whopping tax increase and one that is -- as you say, Krista -- in violation of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to boot, because it, it would -- purports to take money out of people's pockets through the most hated of all taxes -- the property tax -- and do so without even the benefit of a vote of the people. Consequently, my little transport in the time machine back to 2004, but more of that after 6 o'clock.
ANDREWS: Speaking of a hypothetical of what almost happened three years ago. Our then-colleague Senator Norma Anderson, who was always in favor of more money to the schools, slipped into the School Finance Act of 2004 an amendment that would have done this stealth tax increase. You were alerted to it only after unknowingly supporting it in committee. You were then wise enough to vote against it as it passed on the Senate floor. But I looked up the record today, you and Doug Lamborn, now in the U.S. Congress, were the only two Republicans who were wise enough to say “no” to it on the Senate floor. I and a lot of other Republicans were essentially snookered by Senator Anderson's clever little hidden amendment.
MCELHANY: Well, and I was, I was lucky in -- as Doug Lamborn and I are both, of course, from Colorado Springs, as was the House sponsor of the bill, the then-Majority Leader Keith King. And he --
ANDREWS: So you had the heads-up from Keith King?
MCELHANY: Yeah, Keith called us and said, you guys, are, are you voting for this enormous property tax increase, and accused me of voting for it in committee, and I said, “No way.”
ANDREWS: We'll pick up after the other side of these messages from our sponsors here on Backbone Radio, talk more with Senator Andy McElhany, tax fighter -- I only wish I was.