Crestone Eagle, October 2005:
Local support for Referenda C&D voiced
by David Nicholas
Referenda C & D is receiving the big push to succeed
at this year’s off-year election. Nearly everybody is
endorsing them, from the state Governor down to our local
county commissioners and the Moffat Consolidated School Board
and members of the Crestone Charter School Governing Council.
Led by Governor Bill Owens, along with our State Senator Lewis
Entz (R-Hooper), Referenda C & D are high profile issues.
For a state whose electors traditionally turn down tax issues,
community organizations across the board as well as politicos
are all arguing that these Referenda need urgent consideration
What is unusual is that it is Republicans, who usually oppose
tax increases of any kind, are leading the push for Referenda
C & D to pass. They claim doom and gloom for highway infrastructure,
educational institutions and local social service programs
if the referenda fail to pass.
Opponents claim they will cause a tax increase and set the
cat among the pigeons after years of controlling government
growth, and open the floodgates of government spending without
At issue is the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR),
which was passed to prevent state and local government from
growing (i.e., raise taxes) without voters’ consent.
TABOR allows the state to increase its revenue only by an
equal amount to population growth and inflation, as measured
by the consumer price index in the Denver-Boulder area. What
that means in practice is that the current year’s increase
is based upon previous year’s revenue limit or last
year’s revenue collections.
TABOR is based on the assumption that government grows annually,
but in reality that is not what happened. The recession in
Colorado in 2001-02 sharply cut into government revenues caused
by the operation of the TABOR process.
Referendum C is asking for a “time-out” for five
years, to 2010-11, from the TABOR provisions to restore the
state’s revenue increases at the rate they were going
before the 2001-02 recession. The recession caused state revenues
to drop by 17 percent.
Without the recession the state budget for 2004 would have
been $9.6 billion instead of $7.8 billion, which it actually
was. Referendum C seeks to bring $2.3 billion back into the
revenue pool—that is, it is about one third of the current
General Fund budget of $6.7 billion.
If Referendum C fails, then the opposite happens. Budget
cuts occur which reduce the General Fund by one third. As
two thirds of the state’s general fund is off-limits
to cuts, the one third where cuts would occur affects the
areas of public safety, such as prisons and the state court
system, currently budgeted at $828 million.
Also, other areas to suffer would be higher education, which
currently receives about $600 million, along with local social
service programs, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
(TANF) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition
On the local level, if Referenda C & D fail, Saguache
will see cuts in local highway funds and social services.
Essentially, Referendum D specifies how the increases would
be allocated. If Referendum C is approved by voters, Referendum
D will authorize the state to bond up to $2.07 billion. Depending
on market conditions with bond proceeds dedicated to: $1.2
billion for repair and replacement of highways and bridges;
$147 million for K-12 school construction, repair, and maintenance;
$50 million for construction, repair and maintenance of state
university, college and community college facilities; $175
million to be credited to fire and police members’ retirement
fund to pay off the state’s share of unfounded liabilities.
The Good News
The good news is that it does not cost an extra penny
to taxpayers to approve Referenda C & D. They do not change
any existing income, sales, or property tax at the state or
local levels. By law, there will be no new taxes and no increase
in any existing tax rates. In fact, Referendum C provides
for a cut in state income taxes after five years. However,
if this measure does not pass, fees for government services
such as parks and licenses will have to be increased.
On the local level, the Board of education of the Moffat School
District urges voters to approve Referenda C & D, having
passed a resolution in support at their September Board meeting.
In addition, across the state, conservation groups have endorsed
the referenda, including Colorado Action Network, Colorado
Conservation Voters, Audubon Colorado and the Sierra Club.
Also, Equal Rights Colorado, the gay and lesbian lobbying
group, has endorsed the referenda.
Foes of the referenda argue that even a temporary forsaking
of TABOR’s provisions would be bad for Colorado even
for five years. So the media campaign has been hot and heavy
on TV and in newspapers.
History shows that negative political campaigns are more likely
to succeed because they tend to preserve the status quo. However,
given the caution and the specifics of the referenda, the
risk appears minimal that government spending will run amok
from a temporary hiatus of TABOR’s provisions. TABOR
was not meant to reduce the revenues, but it has happened
due to unforeseen circumstances.
Bipartisan support for the Referenda is wide, but, of course,
your opinion matters, so make sure you have a say this year.
Vote, vote, vote.
Moffat School Board member Marta Shoman contributed to
to the Eagle!