Garfield County commissioners vote 2-1 to oppose tax-limiting ballot issues

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – In a split vote, Garfield County’s elected leaders joined numerous other governmental officials around the state in urging voters to reject three tax-and-spend limiting questions on the November general ballot – constitutional amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101.

The Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 on Monday to direct the county’s staff to draft a resolution to that effect and bring it to the commissioners’ next regular meeting, on Sept. 20.

The discussion of the resolution started with a prediction by the county’s finance director, Lisa Dawson, that the three ballot questions, if passed, “doesn’t really affect Garfield County that much because of our healthy fund balance.”

Statewide, however, governmental leaders have warned voters that passage of the three questions would severely hamper the ability of governments at all levels to do their jobs, and would mean the loss of services.

The three initiatives, if approved by state voters, would implement a number of deep tax cuts, eliminating some taxes altogether, and make it harder for governments to borrow money and go into debt to pay for public services.

Garfield County, because it has reserves worth tens of millions of dollars, would not immediately feel the worst effects of the new laws, according to county officials, just as it has not felt the worst effects of the current national recession.

But, noted Commissioner Tresi Houpt, “This will ultimately affect us if this recession continues.”

Commissioner John Martin came out strongly against the resolution opposing the three questions.

“That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing,” he told his fellow board members, explaining that the three questions are outcomes of voter “frustration” and should not be opposed by elected leaders.

“We are going to add to that frustration now, telling them they shouldn’t have that frustration, telling them, trust us, we’re the government,” Martin cautioned.

“I think we’d be remiss in doing our jobs if we didn’t share what we know [about the projected negative effects of the three measures],” returned Houpt.

“Don’t take this position,” insisted Martin, explaining that the commissioners should not be telling voters how to think and what to vote for.

“You’re using the wrong terminology,” said Commissioner Mike Samson, backing up Houpt. “We’re not telling them to do that,” but are attempting to give voters information.

“There are certain times when people look to us as the county leaders,” Samson proclaimed.

This is one of those times, he said, adding, “I’m willing to step forward and join the multiplicity of … governments that realize there are better ways to do things” than the approach taken by these measures.

It is not just that passage of the questions would be bad for governments, Samson concluded, “It’s bad for [the voters].”


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