DENVER – Governor John Hickenlooper may have only recently made up his mind to support a $1 billion, across-the-board income tax hike, but one GOP gubernatorial candidate is already challenging the Democrat to debate it.
“Gov. Hickenlooper, I’m challenging you to a debate, or a series of debates, on this tax increase proposal,” said former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo in a Monday statement that also invited Hickenlooper to name the time and venue.
Hickenlooper formally announced his support for the tax hike during a private meeting with influential business and community leaders earlier this month. The proposal calls for an 8 percent income tax hike for those earning less than $75,000, and a 27 percent hike for those making more than $75,000.
But Hickenlooper’s support for the plan has been less than full-throated, which critics say fits into a larger pattern of Hickenlooper failing to take clear stands on hot-button issues.
The Denver Post‘s Lynn Bartels recently wrote a front page story outlining the ways in which Hickenlooper is alleged to have lost his “moderate mojo” — including flak he received for “not signaling more publicly whether he would support a nearly billion-dollar tax increase.”
Even when discussing his support for the ballot initiative, Hickenlooper seems to hedge his position.
“I obviously wanted the lower, flatter tax increase there could be, but, in the end, if you’re going to support something, it’s got to have a chance of winning, and the flat tax just wasn’t going to win,” Hickenlooper recently told the Post.
That has prompted complaints from critics who say Hickenlooper is trying to downplay his support for the controversial plan.
“After a leak from a closed door meeting with CEOs revealed his support for the billion dollar tax hike, Governor Hickenlooper still refuses to provide anyone his unqualified and firm support,” said Kelly Maher, a spokesman for the free-market advocacy group Compass Colorado. “Coloradans deserve a governor who will be straight with them about his support for this massive tax increase on middle class families.”
Tancredo seemed to echo those sentiments with his debate challenge on Monday.
“A real leader should explain and clarify why he wants to reach further into the pockets of Coloradans,” said Tancredo.
Tancredo is one of two declared GOP candidates seeking to oust Hickenlooper. The other is state Senator Greg Brophy of Wray.
Other Republicans who have been mentioned as potential or likely gubernatorial candidates include Secretary of State Scott Gessler, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp.
Supporters of the proposed tax hike, known as “Initiative 22,” must gather 86,105 valid petition signatures by August 5 to place the question on the November ballot.