Reports of Ref C's demise premature, and that's good news for Colorado
Jon Caldera and the Independence Institute staged a press conference this morning to "celebrate" the "end of Referendum C."
We couldn't disagree more, and we wanted to share our response:
Statement from the Bell Policy Center
concerning the "end of Referendum C"
Staff from the Independence Institute today joined representatives from national anti-tax and anti-government organizations to commemorate what they dubbed the end of Referendum C in Colorado.
"I suggest that Jon Caldera and his friends actually read Referendum C before celebrating too hard," said Wade Buchanan, president of the Bell. "Referendum C did not end at the beginning of this month. Coloradans will be benefiting from its effects for many years to come."
Referendum C, passed by Colorado voters in 2005 and supported by a broad, bipartisan coalition that included then-Gov. Bill Owens, has two parts. The first part was a five-year "time-out" from the spending limit and ratchet effect imposed by the TABOR amendment. That time-out ran from fiscal 2005 through the end of fiscal year 2009-2010, which ended on June 30 of this year.
Ref C allowed the state to retain the revenue generated by existing taxes. It did not impose any new taxes, nor did it raise tax rates.
The second part of Referendum C, which took effect at the first of this month, is a new spending limit that is more than $2 billion higher than the old TABOR limit would have been and which does not have the draconian ratchet effect of that old limit.
"Governor Owens and the others who crafted Referendum C showed great foresight," said Buchanan. "They designed a mechanism that not only allowed Colorado to recover from the economic downturn in the early part of this decade, but which would ensure that our schools, community colleges and other public systems would be able to recover from future downturns as well."
"Because of Referendum C, class sizes have been smaller, tuition has been lower, more families in need have received health coverage and more construction workers have had jobs fixing roads and bridges in Colorado," said Buchanan.
"Because of Referendum C," Buchanan said, "Colorado will have $750 million more in just the current fiscal year alone (FY 2010-11) to help schools and other critical public systems recover from the current brutal economic downturn."
The $750 million is the amount the old TABOR limit would have forced the state to forgo in the current year, according to the latest forecast from the Legislative Council staff. To put that in perspective, $750 million is more than twice the state's general fund commitment to courts and the judicial system each year; 11 percent more than the state's general fund commitment to human service programs, including child protective services; more than 90 percent of the state's general fund commitment to colleges and universities each year; and more than half of the entire amount the state spends from all sources on roads and bridges each year.
"Avoiding that level of additional cuts may be bad news for the anti-government crowd," Buchanan said, "but it's finally a little bit of good news for Colorado businesses and families. It's good news for our economy and our quality of life."