Take pinch off critical services
October 18, 2005
For years, Colorado voters have put the pinch on government spending. Now it’s time for them to let up.By voting “yes” on referendums C and D, voters will free up money for badly needed investments in education, health care and transportation. The money raised from the referendums would also be spent on firefighter and police retirement plans. By voting in favor, voters will also free up money in the state general fund that can be used to support organizations like Mountain Family Health, YouthZone, Colorado West and other nonprofits that provide critical social and health services.Our state budget is in dire shape. Although state and local governments have been collecting more revenue – in the form of taxes and fees – as the economy has improved, the state constitution’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR amendment, sharply limits the state’s ability to spend any of that money. TABOR limits year-to-year spending increases, so that the 2006 state budget is restricted to the amount spent in 2005 plus considerations for new residents and inflation. Any revenues collected that exceed TABOR-mandated spending levels must be refunded to taxpayers.Unfortunately, TABOR doesn’t allow the state budget to return to historic levels once a recovery is under way. Instead, it permanently resets the baseline for government spending at the lowest level during the recession. Thus, spending on critical programs and infrastructure remains at recession levels, even as the economy booms.If Referendum C is passed, it will allow the state to keep excess revenues collected for the next five years and spend them in the areas identified above. After five years, the TABOR limits resume. Referendum D authorizes the state to borrow money against the increased revenues resulting from Referendum C. It also specifies how the loan is to be divvied up between transportation, school construction and public safety retirement funds.If voters statewide come out against referendums C and D, the effects will be dramatic.The director of Mountain Valley Developmental Services, which provides medical support and other assistance to approximately 300 developmentally disabled people in the Roaring Fork Valley, said his organization would likely have to discontinue service to half of its clientele. Funding for other low-income health-care facilities, services for the disabled and youth intervention will receive sharp cuts, as well.Coloradans should be able to boast about what a great place this is to live – where we take care of our roads, our health and our children. Sensible leaders in both political parties support these measures. Vote yes on referendums C and D.