The Koch brothers’ primary political front group, Americans for Prosperity, declared today “AFP-Colorado Legislative Day at the Colorado State Capitol,” promoting what it called it’s “6 for ’16 Public Policy Agenda representing the interests of taxpayers and promoting success for working families across the state.” A look at AFP’s agenda, though, makes it obvious that their agenda isn’t at all about working families in Colorado— It’s designed to use Colorado as a pawn to realize the Koch brothers’ national agenda to bolster their bottom line without regard for what’s best for working people and middle class families.
The Kochs’ disregard for Colorado’s best interests in favor of their own is clearest right at the top of their agenda with the declaration that their #1 priority is ensuring that Colorado budgets continue to be held hostage by the unworkable TABOR policy. Since AFP launched in 2004, the Kochs have been pushing TABOR nationwide one state at a time. The very next year, facing university closures, crumbling highway infrastructure and cuts to social services, Colorado voters approved a bipartisan initiative, Referendum C, effectively putting TABOR on hold for the rest of the decade. A decade later, TABOR has Colorado in a similar bind, with budget cuts of over $300 million threatening the state’s schools, road and hospitals. Still, the extreme anti-tax Kochs will fight at all costs to keep the failed TABOR alive in hopes of taking the policy nationwide.
Ironically, where Colorado has been a positive model for the nation, the Kochs are fighting to turn back the clock. A third of the Koch agenda for Colorado deals with energy, vowing to fight “Obama’s Carbon Rule”— part of “his agenda on climate change”— and “protect access to reliable and affordable energy.” While it doesn’t matter much to the Kochs and their Virginia-based organizations, Coloradans have consistently supported transitioning to a clean energy economy. As columnist Mike Littwin explained, “Colorado is not Kentucky. The state legislature already passed a law in 2010 that was not unlike the new proposed rules on coal-powered plants. The EPA rules give the states flexibility, and Colorado already has its own ideas at work.”
In 2004, long before AFP set up shop, Colorado became the first state to enact a voter-approved renewable energy standard and followed with that 2010 legislation— the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act— requiring larger utilities to get 30% of their energy from renewable sources by the end of this decade. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, calling for a 32% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, followed the Colorado model, which had the state well on its way to meeting the new national standards, already three quarters of the way there. Koch groups will continue to bombard Colorado with their cookie-cutter scare tactics but the fact is that Colorado has the cheapest energy bills in the nation, Colorado’s largest utility has reduced emissions by more than a quarter, the wind industry alone has created thousands of jobs and the state continues to lead the way in transitioning toward a clean energy economy, with Denver advancing a Climate Action Plan to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Despite persistent Koch-supported efforts to reverse more than a decade of progress, Colorado is moving forward on clean energy.