Paul Jacob

My mother reads this column. So, trust me, I don't plan to talk about sex toys any more than I have to. I'm no expert on the subject, either. But I do know they're not worth a multi-billion dollar tax increase.

This November, Colorado voters will face Referendums C and D, placed on the ballot by state legislators. With Referendum C, politicians ask voters to throw out the caps they'd imposed on state government spending when they passed the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative. If passed, Referendum C slaps Coloradans with a $3.6 billion tax increase. Referendum D goes a step further, allowing the state government to borrow still $2 billion more, which with interest could cost taxpayers more than $3 billion to pay back.

Why are Referendum C and D needed? To allow a frugal, yet cash-strapped, government to fix its crumbling schools and infrastructure? Or are these two referendums all about the politicians' insatiable desire to spend money?

And, what on earth does the issue of government spending have to do with sex toys?

A lot, really. Recently, it came to light that a sculpture entitled "Twelve Dildos on Hooks" was purchased with $5,000 in state funds. Actually, no, I take that back: when she applied for government funding, the artist, Tsehai Johnson, changed the title of her work to "Large Implements on Hooks."

Seems the folks spending Coloradans' hard-earned dough on transcendent works of art were none the wiser. They didn't quite get it. "No alarms went off when I looked at it," said one arts council member.

The work is nothing more than twelve hooks in a straight line across a wall with the ceramic "implements" dangling from the hooks.

Ms. Johnson explained the title change, saying, "I wanted the title to be a little more open-ended so that it didn't become so easily dismissed." She told a Denver TV station, "They're meant to be sex toys, but sex toys that are talking about a lot of issues."

In most states, such scandals hardly matter. But in Colorado, what voters and taxpayers think actually does matter. Coloradans have a statewide process of initiative and referendum, which allowed them to enact some fiscal restraint on government through the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Without the approval of their state's political establishment.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.