Transparency: quality or state of being clear, transparent; also frank, candid, free from deceit.
COST believes that most Coloradans have come to understand transparency in government as detailed expenditure and revenue information.
With those definitions in mind, it is laughable that the Colorado State Treasurer’s Office called its latest interactive endeavor “Tax Tracks” a transparency Web site. The site is long on generalizations and pretty pie charts but short on details. In fact, the site even admits it provides nothing more than an “approximation” of taxes paid and where those dollars end up in the state’s coffers.
Even more insulting is that the site is designed to guilt taxpayers into believing they should pay more. Enter $50,000 in annual income and an “approximate” tax breakdown appears. Click on the link for K-12 education. Treasurer Cary Kennedy, architect of Amendment 23, explains how much taxpayers spend on public eduction, and using a thoroughly debunked statistic, she admonishes Coloradans for not spending more:
Colorado ranked 49th in spending on pre-school through twelfth grade public education measured as a percent of personal income in fiscal year 2006-07.
Under “Gasoline Tax” visitors discover this gem:
The gasoline tax has not been adjusted since 1991. From 1991-2008, it lost 40% of its purchasing power adjusted for inflation (Denver-Boulder consumer price index).
Translation: Coloradans don’t pay enough in state gasoline tax.
However, Colorado’s 22 cents per gallon tax is close to the national average.
The interactive site also lets visitors vote on whether the amount paid for K-12 education and other areas of government is the “right amount”, “too little”, or “too much.”
Furthermore, these state taxes aren’t paid in a vacuum. According to the Tax Foundation, Coloradans didn’t see Tax Freedom Day, “the day when Americans finally have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year”, until April 12 last year. The state ranked 16th highest in the country.
Tax Tracks makes a mockery of transparency. Just because Treasurer Kennedy calls it “transparency” doesn’t mean it really is. In fact the only transparency in this Web site is its motive to convince Colorado taxpayers that they should pay more.