TABOR vote splits business leaders
COLORADO SPRINGS – Business and political leaders in this Republican stronghold are usually closely aligned, but not on a ballot proposal that would relax the constitutional limits on state spending.El Paso County business leaders support Referendum C, which would allow the state to keep $3.1 billion that would normally be refunded to taxpayers over five years. The second part of a measure on the November ballot would allow the state to borrow up to $2.1 billion for roads, school maintenance and other projects.Business leaders have asked GOP legislators not to actively campaign against the proposals.”We did ask them, ‘Don’t come out strongly opposing it.’ That’s about all we can ask them,” said Randy Reynolds, chairman of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, is the only area lawmaker who voted to place Referendum C on the ballot.Most of the Republican legislators said they didn’t plan to campaign against the ballot proposal.”It’s not my big issue. I think we do need a fix, but I just don’t support this big of a fix,” said Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs.Sen. Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, who also opposes the measure, said he’ll likely speak up only if he’s asked.That sentiment isn’t shared by other Colorado Springs Republicans. Reps. David Schultheis and Lynn Hefley have been vocal opponents of the referendum.”I think it is unfair of the business community to ask us to stay out of it,” Schultheis said. “I certainly plan on ramping it up significantly between now and the election, because I don’t believe it is good for the business community or the state of Colorado.”Hefley said the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights isn’t perfect, but has kept legislators from spending “every dime they give us.”The voter-approved constitutional amendment, known as TABOR, limits the amount of revenue governments can keep, based on a formula that factors in population growth, inflation and the previous year’s budget. Governments must refund revenue exceeding the cap or seek voter approval to keep it.Voters also have to approve tax increases.The Legislature has wrangled for years with modifying TABOR to break the budgetary stranglehold they say it has imposed as the state’s growth has increased demand for service. The referendum has divided the GOP, with some calling it a tax increase and others hailing it as a common sense solution.”Anybody that calls this a tax increase is patently lying to the community,” said Will Temby, president of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. “A wide variety of organizations in this city that are not tax-and-spend liberals are in support of these.”Vail – Colorado
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