Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 have such far-reaching financial implications on our local governments that voting for them would make the economic downturn seem like boom times.
The masterminds behind these three ballot initiatives - who have yet to take responsibility for writing these reckless measures and reveal themselves - want government spending to slow way down. And, judging by the ballot language, it would appear they also want governments to suffer, and suffer hard.
Local municipalities and our school district have come out against the initiatives, along with more than 500 other governments, school districts and organizations across the state, including the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the Colorado Association of Homebuilders, Club 20 (a Western Slope organization of counties, communities, businesses, tribes, individuals and associations), the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
The initiatives would not only cut revenues, but would also limit local governments' ability to borrow money.
The Eagle County School District, for example, needs to tap into the state's interest free loan program every year to have enough cash to pay district expenses until March, when property taxes are collected and the school district can pay back the loan in full. The program costs the school district nothing but is necessary because the district relies almost solely on property taxes to pay its bills.
If Amendment 61 passes, the district wouldn't have access to that free loan, and would have to start shutting down schools or borrow about $20 million per year, with a 6 percent or so interest rate. That would cost the district $2 million a year in interest and principal payments.
There's no guarantee the district would be able to borrow that money, though, because Amendment 61 would also requrie governments to ask voters every time they want to borrow money. If the voters say no, the school district has to shut down schools. Period.
That scenario doesn't even take into account Amendment 60, which would also require the school district to pay property taxes on all of its buildings.
Amendment 60 would also cut property taxes that fund school districts by half by 2020, requiring the state's general fund to make up the difference. The result means the state would have to pick up the $1.5 billion tab, accounting for 92 percent of the state's general fund. That would leave just $32 million to cover the rest of the state's expenses.
Proposition 101 would save Colorado citizens money when registering vehicles by creating a flat $10 fee for all vehicles. Individuals would likely enjoy the initial savings, but would certainly feel the effects later as the state has to cut spending on public services such as schools, prisons, courts, health and human services, roads, bridges and community colleges - all of which receive funding from vehicle registration fees.
While many of us would like to send a message to government to keep out-of-control spending in check, these ballot initiatives are not the way to do it.
We strongly recommend just saying "no" to Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101.