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These Colorado Dems Say They’re Running To Help ‘Working Families.’ They Voted for New Taxes Amid Rising Inflation.

State legislators Brittany Pettersen and Yadira Caraveo backed gas-tax hike, new 'fees' on delivery, rideshares

Colorado state senator Brittany Pettersen (D.) and Colorado state representative Yadira Caraveo / leg.colorado.gov
• August 1, 2022 5:00 am

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A pair of Colorado Democrats say they're running for Congress to help "working families." During their time in the state legislature, they voted to create new taxes as Colorado families faced rising inflation.

In June 2021, state legislators Brittany Pettersen and Yadira Caraveo voted for legislation that increased Colorado's gas tax and imposed new fees on deliveries and Uber and Lyft rides. The vote came as inflation surged in the Centennial State under President Joe Biden. By the end of June 2021, the average price for a gallon of gas in Colorado rose above $3.60, a nearly 50 percent increase from just six months prior. That same month, consumer prices increased 5.4 percent from a year earlier, the then-largest monthly gain in nearly 13 years.

Now, Pettersen says she's running for Congress to focus on "improving the lives of working families," while Caraveo says she launched her own congressional bid to "get real things done for working families." Pettersen and Caraveo's state legislative records, however, say otherwise. Those records could place them in political peril as voters increasingly sour on Biden's economy and look for relief from the record-high inflation seen under the Democratic president. 

The American public's outlook on the state of the economy, for example, is the worst it's been in more than a decade, according to a July CNN poll. In Colorado, just 31 percent of voters approve of Biden, compared with 54 percent who disapprove. Biden won the state by 14 points in 2020.

Pettersen and Caraveo's votes to raise taxes amid inflationary concerns show that the pair of Democrats are "out of touch" with average Coloradans, Advance Colorado Institute president Michael Fields told the Washington Free Beacon.

"These fees are getting out of control. … Why are we raising fees and taxes when we're heading into a recession and inflation is so high?" Fields said. "I just think the whole thing is these Democrats being out of touch."

Neither Pettersen nor Caraveo returned requests for comment.

Colorado Senate Bill 260, which both Pettersen and Caraveo supported last year, included a gas-tax hike of 2 cents per gallon, a 27-cent fee on deliveries, and a 30-cent fee on Uber and Lyft rides, all of which came into effect in July. When gas prices in the state went on to surpass $4.20 a gallon in April, however, Pettersen sponsored a bill to delay the gas-tax hike to April 2023—just four months after the upcoming November election.

But Pettersen did not delay the state's new delivery and rideshare fees, even as inflation neared 40-year highs. Fields criticized that decision, arguing that if Pettersen and other Democrats felt that Colorado families needed relief from one of the new fees, they also needed relief from the others.

"If a two-cent gas increase this year was too much for people, why wouldn't 27- and 30-cent fee increases also at least be delayed?" Fields told the Free Beacon. "It comes out of our pocket either way."

Caraveo has attempted to argue that she "work[s] hard to save families money" by highlighting Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which sets a cap on how much money the state can keep in a given year. When it exceeds that cap, the state sends money back to the public—this year, for example, Coloradans are set to receive a $750 refund. Despite Caraveo touting that refund in a July tweet, the Democrat pledged to end TABOR on her now-deleted state-level campaign site.

"TABOR has handcuffed Colorado and keeps the state from using the funds it collects for the betterment of its citizens," Caraveo's site read. "Without the elimination of TABOR, funding in this state will always fall short of our needs."

Both Pettersen and Caraveo joined the state legislature in 2019 and went on to take a number of controversial votes. During their first year as lawmakers, both Democrats voted to make the possession of four grams or less of fentanyl—equivalent to 13,000 deadly doses—a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Two years later, in 2021, Pettersen and Caraveo voted to weaken the state's penalty for felony murder as Denver experienced a near-record spike in homicides.

Pettersen and Caraveo both ran unopposed in the state's June primary elections and in November will face Republicans Erik Aadland and Barbara Kirkmeyer, respectively.

Published under: 2022 Election, Colorado, Feature