A governor is the taxpayers’ last line of defense against money-hungry bureaucrats who incessantly seek their “fair share” of worker incomes in the form of higher taxes for all sorts of boondoggles. Governors can limit the amount of money that agencies request, they can veto excessive spending bills, and they can make sure bureaucracies don’t waste money that legislatures have appropriated.
To successfully defend taxpayers, governors must be skeptical of claims made by bureaucrats and the special interest groups that benefit from excessive spending, and they must be open to listen to citizen views of proposed spending programs. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is now running for governor of Colorado, has failed to meet these tests.
In September, 2004, during the campaign to spend billions of dollars on Denver-area rail transit, Hickenlooper endorsed the new tax for more trains, saying that Fastracks would “take at least 250,000 cars off the road — thereby relieving congestion.” This was a complete fabrication.
As FasTracks opponents pointed out at least a month before Hickenlooper’s statement, 250,000 is the approximate number of weekday trips expected to take place on all rail lines after FasTracks was built, including the existing lines built before FasTracks. The FasTracks lines themselves would carry only about 150,000 trips per weekday. Moreover, roughly half of those trips would be on transit even if FasTracks isn’t built. FasTracks would get, at most, about 72,000 daily trips out of cars — and that’s only if none of these people carpools. (For comparison, the region expects to have more than 10 million auto trips per weekday when FasTracks is done.)
Hickenlooper didn’t say “trips,” he said “cars.” Most cars take at least two trips a day, many take more. If the average is two a day, then FasTracks will take only 36,000 cars off the road each day. Moreover, only about half of those would be rush-hour trips, suggesting that the other half won’t be taking place during congested periods of the day anyway. (All of these numbers are taken straight from a review of FasTracks published by the Denver Regional Council of Governments.)
Even during the entire day, FasTracks would “take,” at most, 36,000 cars off the road. There is a big difference between 36,000 and 250,000.
So here is a question Colorado voters should ask gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper: Based on what we know today, including 40 percent cost overruns, revenue shortfalls, and the trivial amount of congestion relief that FasTracks is expected to provide, would you still have endorsed the 2004 FasTracks ballot measure? If so, then what are you going to do to make sure you are not again hoodwinked by bureaucrats who want to spend more tax dollars on future megaprojects? And if not, then who will you really represent: the voters, or the bureaucracies and special interest groups that want to take as much money as possible from those voters?