Referendum C, D supporters spell out doomsday scenario
September 23, 2005
Youth offenders will be let into the streets, state parks will be starved of funding, and fossil fuel producers will be left unregulated if referendums C and D fail, supporters warned at a forum Friday in Glenwood Springs.No one opposing the referendums spoke at City Hall, but a coalition of state elected officials, employees and members of state-funded organizations stumped for referendums C and D. Under Referendum C, if passed, taxpayers won’t receive their annual refund of extra tax dollars the state doesn’t use as mandated by the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, passed in 1992. The state will keep the money and spend it on education, transportation and fire and police pensions. If Referendum D is approved, it will allow the state to borrow more than $2 billion for transportation projects, public school and higher education buildings and local firefighter and police pensions. It would take effect only if Referendum C passes statewide.Colorado voters will vote on the referendums on the Nov. 1 ballot.State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, cautioned that the state is in a budgetary crisis that will cause residents to lose essential services. “The question in front of all of us is, What do we want the state to look like?” she said. “People are saying this is a blank check. It’s not a blank check.”Curry accused the opponents of C and D of fabricating numbers for how much money Coloradans will get back under TABOR and of spreading misinformation. “This is not about your tax refund,” she said, assuring voters that the amount they overpay in state taxes each year will still be returned to them. Former Glenwood Republican state Rep. Greg Rippy told supporters that what they lack is a good catch phrase for referendums C and D, a tactic the measures’ detractors have mastered. He said the state is now feeling the effects of the state Legislature’s alleged years of raiding and robbing state funds, creating a financial situation today in which Colorado emergency services can’t respond to a disaster the magnitude of hurricanes Rita or Katrina. “I don’t think C and D is the perfect fix, but it’s the one we’ve got on the table,” he said. “The crisis is real, not made up.”Carbondale town Trustee Alice Laird cautioned that state mental health services will suffer and that Highway 133 in Carbondale urgently needs to be widened.Others warned that water rights and quality stand to suffer enormously.Chris Treese, of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said a water right in Colorado is only as good as the organization that administers the right. If the conservation district gets a cut in state funding, he said, water rights here won’t work. Even worse, he said, water quality in the state will suffer. He said the conservation district’s board unanimously voted to support C and D. Garfield County Commissioner Trési Haupt echoed Treese and Rippy’s pleas for voters to pass C and D. She said a growing Garfield County has a “full spectrum” of people who need social services that stand to be slashed if C and D fail. “The needs won’t go away,” she said, admitting that she’s not completely satisfied with C and D. But she said she found it heartwarming to witness the bipartisan support in the Legislature for TABOR reform, including C and D. Deb Wilde, of Youth Zone, warned that the county doesn’t have enough beds in place to house youth offenders, who she said stand to be released onto the streets if C and D were to fail. In a colorful plea for voters to approve the referendums, David Adamson of Mountain Family Health Center in Glenwood said the Mountain Family Health Center will lose 15 percent of its budget.”The ramifications are going to be huge.” he said. “If we do not pass this thing, we will be screwed.”But he agreed with detractors that the referendums amount to a tax increase because fewer tax dollars will be returned to taxpayers annually. “Saying it’s not a tax increase is like Bill Clinton saying, ‘I did not have sex with that woman,'” he said, adding that Colorado’s financial straits are “a sorry state of affairs.”Prominent Republican state Division of Wildlife Director Russell George of Rifle spoke unequivocally in favor of C and D, asking voters to inform themselves about the details of the measures before they cast their ballots.He warned that the state parks, water rights system, and the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will suffer tremendously if C and D fail, causing oil, gas and coal producers to develop Colorado’s fuel resources without regulation. Severance taxes generated from oil and gas development, which currently fund the Colorado River Water Conservation District, will be allocated to other areas of the budget if C and D fail, George said. “I support it totally,” George said, referring to C and D and calling the referendums’ passage “good government and good citizenship.””I will be voting yes on referendums C and D,” he said.