Colorado communities gear up to fight tax limits
June 24, 2010
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Communities across Colorado are gearing up to fight three tax-limit initiatives on the November ballot, calling them a “sugarcoated lemon” that may appeal to voters in November, but it will have bitter consequences.
The measures include Proposition 101, which reduces automobile and telecommunications taxes, Amendment 60, which cancels voter authorized tax-limit overrides, and Amendment 61, which limits municipal borrowing and bars state debt.
Opponents told members of the Colorado Municipal League, which represents more than 260 communities across the state, that if the initiatives pass, state and local governments will lose billions of dollars and be forced to cut services and jobs.
“This is nothing more than a voter-approved recession,” said Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy.
Woodland Park Mayor David Truly said voters are fed up with the ballooning federal deficit and he urged fellow elected officials to remind voters that the state constitution bans borrowing and deficits.
“People are fed up with this. These initiatives have a very good chance of passing, I’m afraid. I’ll be honest, there are aspects of this I like,” he told a room packed with elected officials at the annual CML conference of community leaders.
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Our city councilman Gary Benson said his city is drawing up two budgets this year, including an alternative in case one or more of the initiatives pass. He said he plans to use the alternative budget to show voters what will happen if the initiatives pass.
According to an analysis by the municipal league, the vehicle tax initiative will cost municipalities and taxing districts $500 million a year. Proposition 101 also requires the state to cut the state income tax by 25 percent, a loss of $1 billion. Local school districts are expected to lose millions of dollars, which the state is required to backfield.
Proponents said the initiatives are necessary because state and local governments have ignored the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that limits spending and requires voter approval for taxes, and courts have limited TABOR’s impact.
Mate urged community leaders to make the case to voters that the initiatives will not only affect big projects, they will also limit the ability of local communities to even buy a fire truck without voter approval.
“That’s the picture you’ve got to draw for people so they understand the implications of this,” Mate said.
Mate said the initiatives sound good to voters, but he said voters will eventually pay for it by increased costs for utilities and other services.
“I want you to visualize a giant sugarcoated lemon. What may look good will have a very, very bitter aftereffect,” he said.