Colorado ski towns to test waters of TABOR |

Colorado ski towns to test waters of TABOR

Members of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, or CAST, voted Friday in Vail to spend $3,000 on a small initial survey to determine if any level of support exists for a proposal to “de-Bruce” communities with fewer than 20,000 people.

Western Slope ski towns are facing the same kinds of budget crunches as all other governments. Revenues are falling, but residents are balking at cuts in services.

Colorado voters passed the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, 10 years ago, limiting government spending increases to population growth plus inflation. Anything additional government spending must be approved by voters. The amendment, introduced by Colorado Springs legislator Douglas Bruce, also bans new types of taxes, such as real estate transfer taxes, which has many ski town officials scrambling to find enough money to cover the bills.

“TABOR is dishonest in that it purports to do something it does not do – give voters local control over their taxes,” said one CAST member.

Bruce introduced TABOR unsuccessfully twice before winning approval 10 years ago with 51 percent of the statewide vote. The amendment’s approval is now well over 60 percent and climbing, said Bob Drake, a partner in a Front Range research and polling firm.

“People are happy with the outcome of TABOR,” said Snowmass Town Manager Mike Segrest. “They have a couple refund checks in their pocket.”

Still, those at Friday’s CAST meeting decided they were willing to spend $3,000 to test the political waters and get an indication if there’s any support for de-Brucing at that level.

If they decide to proceed, the numbers get quickly breathtaking. Drake broke down the cost of a campaign like this:

– $100,000 to get the 66,000 signatures on a statewide ballot petition to, based on a cost of $1.65 per signature.

– The campaign itself could cost between $750,000 and $3 million. The more vocal the opposition, the higher the cost.

Even then, that might not be enough.

“If the undecided voters are still undecided by Election Day, they’ll vote “no,'” said Drake. “If it’s too complicated and the voters don’t understand it, or don’t want to, they’ll vote “no.'”

Drake, who ran Tim Wirth’s successful political campaigns, said voters need to see a compelling reason to approve something like this.

“If the voters think there’s no compelling reason, they’ll vote “no,'” he said.

Proponents face a long, tough battle, Drake said, as well as a huge price tag.

Basically, it comes down to what voters want to spend their money on, Drake said.

“Taxes fail; open space passes,” he said.

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