Wave of opposition continues for Colorado tax-ballot issues
October 31, 2010
DENVER – Bipartisan alarm bells over the consequences of three draconian tax-cutting measures on Tuesday’s ballot produced a $6.8 million fundraising effort to defeat the measures – a bigger campaign haul than any other statewide race except for Colorado’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns.
Supporters of the tax proposals have raised just about $17,400, and some conservative leaders who usually support limiting government spending have argued against them.
The proposals would cut school district property taxes, ban state borrowing and reduce the Colorado income tax.
Opponents of Amendment 60, 61 and Proposition 101 were so worried about the measures’ appeal to voters in a year marked by anti-government sentiment that they launched their campaign early and enlisted Democrats and Republicans.
In the end, it appears they built a fire line for an outcome that has yet to materialize, said Floyd Ciruli, an independent pollster and political consultant.
“They were worried about the temper of the times,” he said. Ciruli said polling indicates the measures are trailing substantially.
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Supporters have a much less visible campaign with almost no endorsements, while opponents have swamped the airwaves and mailboxes and endorsements from all the major newspapers. But the supporters are not deterred.
“We are working until the very last minute on Election Day to get the word out. We are staying optimistic,” said Natalie Menten, campaign coordinator for Colorado Tax Reforms. Menten said the campaign has gotten more volunteers in recent days.
“I think yes, just like David versus Goliath, we can win this battle,” she said.
In commercials, press conferences and debates, opponents argue the proposals would make it nearly impossible for the state to provide basic services or borrow money for construction projects. One ad shows empty seats at Invesco Field at Mile High – home of the Denver Broncos – to illustrate the 73,000 jobs they claim the state will lose if the measures succeed.
Colorado’s independent Legislative Council said in September that the state will lose $2.1 billion in annual revenue once the three proposals are fully implemented. Over time, the legislative analysts warned, the state would be forced to devote 92 percent of its budget on constitutionally required K-12 education funding, leaving little for higher education, human services, prisons and everything else.
Menten said the report doesn’t take into account government revenue growth from taxpayers who would be able to spend more money.
But the argument against the measures was enough to persuade some Republicans who normally support tax breaks. GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, who got the nomination with the help of the tea party, has said he could only support the proposal to cut property taxes. Democrats have been uniformly against the measures.
“Again, it comes down to the fact that there’s this unity because these proposals are so extreme,” said Dan Hopkins, spokesman for the group opposing the measures, Coloradans for Responsible Reform. Hopkins said the group has received endorsements from about 700 individuals and organizations, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and various chambers of commerce.
Mark Radtke, legislative and policy advocate for the Colorado Municipal League, said most state municipalities oppose the tax measures.
“I haven’t seen any town or city taking action to support these,” he said.