Oct 3, 2022 - News

Heidi Ganahl wants to slash state budget to eliminate Colorado income tax

 Heidi Ganahl speaks at a forum hosted by Colorado Concern on Friday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post via Getty Images

Heidi Ganahl speaks at a forum hosted by Colorado Concern on Friday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post via Getty Images

Republican candidate for governor Heidi Ganahl pledged to eliminate Colorado's income tax by slashing the state budget by billions of dollars each year and seeking more than $1 billion in new taxes.

Why it matters: The details β€” offered Friday at a forum hosted by business group Colorado Concern β€” provide the most comprehensive outline to date about how Ganahl would cover the $12 billion loss in income tax revenue and cut the state's 22-cent gas tax in half.

  • Her platform sets the stage for massive cuts in state spending on education, health care, homelessness and other services if she's elected.
  • And it seemingly contradicts her pledge to not raise taxes.

Yes, but: Her proposal did little to ease concerns about the fiscal impact of eliminating 70% of the revenue for annual discretionary spending.

  • The forum's moderator, Dean Singleton, the former publisher of the Denver Post, called Ganahl's income tax plan a good political sound bite but "total bulls**t."

What she's saying: "A lot of people across Colorado think the government's total bulls**t right now," she retorted, blasting what she calls "out of control spending"

How it works: Fiscal forecasts put income tax collections at $12 billion for the coming fiscal year and gas tax income at $655 million. Ganahl said she'd phase in her plan over eight years and "refill the coffers" by:

  • Asking voters to convert about $1 billion in current government fees on transportation and other services into new taxes;
  • Eliminating more than 200 current tax breaks for individuals and companies, effectively raising taxes $4.3 billion;
  • Cutting 5% from unspecified areas of the budget that she considers "fraud and waste," amounting to about $1 billion in discretionary spending;
  • Reducing the size of state government by 10% a year, amount to cuts of over $1.5 billion at the start;
  • Boosting economic activity to generate $2-$3 billion in additional corporate taxes.

Of note: Ganahl says the state is wasting money on a public education system she says doesn't work and hinted at massive employee cuts when she said the state government "should not be one of the largest employers" in Colorado.

  • "I do big things. I go big. I don't nibble around the edges," she said.
  • Flanked by private security, Ganahl left the forum in a hurry and told Axios Denver she wouldn't answer questions about her plan.

The other side: Gov. Jared Polis has suggested an income tax cut would "gut" law enforcement and the department of corrections. Instead, he used the forum to tout his efforts to put more money into policing.

Reality check: In Colorado, the governor has limited power to control spending. The governor makes an annual budget proposal, but the Legislature crafts the document.

  • The governor, however, does have line item veto authority.

Moreover: Much of the state's $40 billion budget is federal dollars for dedicated programs.

  • Each fiscal year, lawmakers set about $17 billion in spending in what's known as the general fund, and even then the vast majority is dedicated to major programs, such as education, healthcare and the prison system.
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