Anti-tax initiatives proposed; Would cut back on taxing and spending in several areas
Denver Daily News
Nov. 30, 2009
Conservative citizens are standing up against taxes with an arsenal of proposed 2010 ballot initiatives that would reduce government taxing and spending.
After reviewing the three proposals – Initiatives 10, 12 and 21 – it appears the intent of the initiatives are to generally lower taxes and limit government from spending and taxing, especially in the areas of vehicles, telecommunication, income, property and government borrowing.
The Denver Daily News was hardpressed to get any of the citizen-sponsors to speak with the paper on the record about the three proposed initiatives. Most of the groups Ń Colorado Tax Reform and Limit Colorado Debt Ń referred the paper to their respective Web sites and would not comment past the information on the sites.
All three initiatives are being pushed by anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce, the author of the 1992 voter-approved Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, according to Pueblo Chieftain reporter Charles Ashby.
Proponents have handed in more than 100,000 signatures for each, which is needed to place the measures on the ballot. The Secretary of State's office must still certify and approve the signatures. Questions are being raised as to whether the signatures were collected legally, and a court challenge may follow if the Secretary of State's office certifies the signatures.
Initiative 10 would reduce vehicle ownership taxes over four years; end taxes on vehicle rentals and leases; phase in over four years a $10,000 vehicle sale price tax exemption; set total yearly registration, license and title fees at $10 per vehicle; lower the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent, then phase in a further reduction to 3.5 percent; and end taxes on telecommunication services, except for 9-1-1. The proposal comes just months after Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill that he pushed that will gradually raise vehicle registration fees by an average of $41 over the next two years to pay for crumbling roads, bridges and highways.
Initiative 12 would reverse a measure that froze property tax mill levies in local school districts, and also reverse the effects of the 2005 voter-approved Referendum C, which approved a five-year reprieve from TABOR refund requirements to be spent on education, health care and transportation.
Initiative 21 would prohibit government from incurring any debt without voter approval, and then reduce tax rates after borrowing is fully repaid.
Kersey resident Jeff Gross, Initiative 10 lead proponent, declined to speak with the Denver Daily News. But from his Web site, CoTaxReform.com, he described the Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER) Act as a tax increase that should have gone to the voters under the constitutional mandates of TABOR.
"It is economic insanity to raise taxes (also fees) in this depression," wrote Gross. "If raising them is bad, it's likewise true that lowering them is good for the economy. That's what we propose to do."
Liberal critics are already stepping up to the plate to oppose the proposals. The Bell Policy Center calls all three proposals "distressing news" that would "blow a gaping hole through everything the state funds – from our public schools and community colleges to our roads and bridges and even our child welfare services."
The liberal think tank says Initiative 10 alone would reduce funding by $73 million for schools, community colleges and health care in 2010-2011 and then another $269 million in 2011-2012 at a time when the state is facing a two-year budget shortfall of over $2 billion. Over the life of the initiative, the general fund would be cut by almost 25 percent, said the think tank.
The measure would also erase the progress of FASTER and take away precious money for roads and highways, said the Bell Policy Center.
"The measures that were submitted could stop Colorado's recovery dead in its tracks and lock in recessionary levels of funding for years – even decades – to come," Wade Buchanan, president of the think tank, writes in an e-mail blast to supporters. "Colorado already is in a deep hole, and these measures will make the hole deeper and darker."
In defending Initiative 21, Golden resident Russ Haas and Black Hawk resident Michelle Northrup – lead proponents – argued that Coloradans are being served a disadvantage when government borrows because of money spent on payments over the life of the debts. They cite an archaic 1876 Colorado law that states, Colorado "shall not contract any debt by loan in any form."
"Our petition re-affirms the plain meaning of that 1876 ban on state debt, and deletes all obsolete exceptions," write the proponents. "No debt, no borrowing, no loans Ń we want a balanced state budget that protects all citizens from repaying overspending by irresponsible state politicians. Living within our means is a matter of morality."
The Bell Policy Center said Colorado would become one of the few, if not only state in the nation without authority to issue debt.
"In tangible terms, this means crumbling schools, fewer rec centers and libraries, overcrowded colleges – the list, of course, could go on and on," writes Buchanan.
His group says when all three proposals are combined, the impact to the state could be "toxic."
"Colorado has suffered in recent decades from budgeting by constitutional formula," said Buchanan. "On top of devastating cuts, these proposed initiatives would add new formulas to the constitution that would make it all but impossible to meet the needs of a 21st century state."