Local voters in step with state

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Routt County voters issued a resounding "No" to a trio of disparate statewide ballot issues Tuesday, echoing the measures' overwhelming defeat on a statewide basis.

Amendment 32 (property tax rate), Amendment 33 (tourism and gambling) and Referendum A (water bonds) were all crushed at the polls.

Routt County voters rejected Referendum A with 4,003 votes against the measure and 792 in favor. At 11 p.m. Tuesday, the statewide vote was 66 percent opposed and 34 percent in favor.

Amendment 33, which would have generated up to $25 million for tourism marketing through video lottery terminals in existing racetracks and casinos, found more local support. However, the measure championed by State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, still lost by about 1,100 votes in Routt County. The final count was 3,005 opposed and 1,897 in favor.

Statewide, Amendment 33 was losing overwhelmingly, 81 percent to 19 percent, late on election night.

Amendment 32, which would have frozen the tax assessment ratio for homeowners, was rejected by more than a 2-to-1 margin locally. The vote was 3,344 to 1,239.

Amendment 33 was touted by supporters as a way to create more jobs for Coloradans and strengthen the economy without creating new taxes. The video lottery terminals would have been regulated by the Colorado Lottery Commission.

Detractors said the measure would have allowed racetrack operators to receive more than twice the amount of money set aside for tourism promotion. They added the amendment removes local control from the communities where the gaming would have taken place.

Gov. Bill Owens lent his political clout to Referendum A. Taylor was a vocal opponent. It would have affirmed a new state law allowing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to borrow up to $2 billion in the form of bonds to back public and private water projects. Over time, the repayment cost could have ballooned to $4 billion when interest is accounted for.

The proposal went to the ballot because the state constitution requires voter approval before the state may borrow money. Rejection of the referendum effectively repealed the state law.

The bonding capacity could have backed acquisition of water rights, construction of new dams, improvement of existing facilities or to increase water conservation. However, neither the new state law nor the referendum specifies which projects would move forward.

Opponents pointed out that the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority already has the capacity to issue bonds for water projects, making referendum A redundant. They argue the referendum could have created the largest debt in Colorado history, and could lead to higher water rates for consumers.

Amendment 32 was a complex proposal designed to prevent the portion of the overall property tax burden assigned to homeowners from dropping any further. The measure would have revised the portion of the Colorado Constitution that governs establishment of assessment ratios -- a part of the formula that is used to arrive at the amount of property taxes each owner will pay.

Since 1986, the residential assessment rate has fallen from 21 percent to the current 7.96 percent.

Amendment 32 would have locked in the residential assessment rate at 8 percent, eliminating the possibility that it could drop even further.

The voters said, "no thank-you."

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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