Ballot initiatives gather more local opposition
Vail, CO Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado – Singletree resident Richard Gretz got a mailer from the proponents of Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 and said the information is misleading after learning what proponents are failing to tell voters.
Gretz was one of about 35 people who attended a nonpartisan Colorado ballot initiatives educational event Friday at the Singletree Community Center, sponsored by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
Rich Jones, the director of policy and research at the Bell Policy Center, a Colorado nonprofit research organization, gave a slideshow presentation outlining the economic impacts of the statewide ballot initiatives. He also gave both supporting and opposing viewpoints for each initiative.
Gretz walked away from the event thinking the proponent mailer he received was missing some critical information that voters need before making a decision on Nov. 2.
The mailer has a graph that shows state spending in Colorado has been on the rise year after year – what it doesn’t show is that relative to economic growth in Colorado, state spending has remained fairly steady, Jones said.
“General Fund spending has been between 3 percent and 3.5 percent of the state’s economy for the last 28 years,” Jones said. “Government may be spending more money, but relative to the size, it has remained fairly constant.”
It’s an important fact to note as people look at the proponents’ mailer and see only part of the facts, Gretz said.
Since 2001, Jones said Colorado’s population has grown by 700,000 residents. There are also 150,000 more Medicaid recipients, 70,000 more K-12 students and 35,000 more higher education students.
He went over the pros and cons for each amendment in a similar presentation to what the Eagle County Republican Party hosted earlier this week. The point of the event is to educate voters, and hope they tell their friends about what they’ve learned.
Lisa Pease, a Women’s Foundation of Colorado board member, said informing voters during a mid-term election is especially important.
“There are some very unusual things that can pass because we have very low voter turnout,” Pease said. “Some of these initiatives are very critical to how the future is going to look in the state of Colorado.”
Jones also presented information on Amendment 62, the so-called “personhood” amendment, and Amendment 63, which related to government’s involvement in health care, as well as some other ballot initiatives.
Amendment 60 would cut property taxes for public schools in half by 2020 and require the state’s general fund to make up the difference lost. It would also require enterprises and authorities – such as schools or water districts, for example – to pay property taxes, yet would require governments to reduce tax rates to ensure no net increase in revenues.
Proponents, mainly of http://www.limitpropertytax.com, say Amendment 60 would help homeowners and renters save and that schools won’t suffer.
Opponents, at http://www.donthurtcolorado.com, say Amendment 60 would cut more than $1 billion in local funding for schools while putting more strain on other essential state services, and would mandate new property taxes on universities, water authorities and the Division of Wildlife, which would then mean higher fees for residents.
Jones said a lot of these kinds of enterprises would end up increasing fees to make up the difference, including the valley’s water district.
“We would have to pass (the property taxes) directly onto our constituents,” said Becky Bultemeier, finance manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
Amendment 61 would ban the use of debt financing by the state of Colorado, reduces local government debt financing limits by about 60 percent, requires local governments to automatically cut tax rates when debts are repaid and changes election requirements for debt financing issues.
Proponents, http://www.limitCOdebt.com, say Amendment 61 would protect citizens from government overspending and force government to live within its means.
Opponents say it prohibits sound borrowing practices like short-term leases, cash flow loans and certificates used for building public projects. They also point to Colorado’s constitution, which requires the state to have a balanced budget each year.
Proposition 101 would cut state income taxes, motor vehicle taxes and fees and telecommunications fees.
The results mean Colorado’s general fund revenues would decrease by 23 percent – the same fund that pays for schools, colleges, universities, health, human services, corrections and other operations, Jones said.
Proposition 101 would also cut state funding for roads and bridges by 27 percent, as well as varying cuts to local funding for such projects, according to Jones’ research.
Proponents, http://www.COtaxreform.com, say these taxes disproportionately affect low-income people and that 101 would reduce the unfairness and provide relief for all taxpayers.
Opponents say 101 would require significant cuts in essential services like schools, health, human services and corrections. They say it would make it almost impossible to repair the state’s 128 structurally deficient bridges, Jones said.
Donthurtcolorado.com has a list of more than 500 organizations, groups, corporations and governments that oppose the ballot initiatives. The Bell Policy Center and Women’s Foundation of Colorado are two of them.
While the opposition is far and wide, opponents fear voters will see the initiatives only in terms of their personal pocketbooks – that cheaper vehicle taxes and registration fees might sound good, as would decreased property taxes that pay for local schools.
Eagle County Commissioner Sara Fisher said if voters only read the Colorado Blue Book and the ballot questions without learning about the impacts, they will be uninformed when they hit the polls.
“If all they read are the ballot questions, they’ll be led astray – the questions sound quite promising,” Fisher said.
The Eagle County commissioners will hear a presentation from the county’s finance director, John Lewis, Monday at 2 p.m. on the initiatives that Fisher said will bring the potential impacts close to home. The meeting is at the Eagle County Building in Eagle and is open to the public.
“It’s not going to be pretty (if the initiatives pass),” Fisher said.
Proponents of the measures have refused to reveal who they are to the public. They provided comments about the initiatives to the Vail Daily but refused to give a name for attribution.
Edwards resident Rebecca Matlon came to Friday’s event without much knowledge over the initiatives. She left the presentation “scared to death,” she said.
“These have a lot of financial implications, oh my,” Matlon said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.