Sunday, September 7, 2003
The Steamboat Springs City Council will weigh in on a state referendum and amendment that will appear on November's ballot.
At Tuesday's meeting, the council will be asked to vote on two resolutions -- one in opposition to Referendum A, which proposes creating $2 billion in state funding for water projects, and the other in support of the Colorado Tourism Initiative, Amendment 33, which proposes putting in place video lottery terminals with proceeds going to fund tourism promotion.
State Sen. Jack Taylor, R- Steamboat Springs, is heavily involved in these issues and has provided information to the city for drafting the resolutions. He will not be attending Tuesday's meeting because of a presentation he is giving to the Craig City Council on the same issues.
Taylor is largely opposed to Referendum A because of the unclear effects it would have on the Western Slope.
"The referendum was drafted largely by Eastern Slope people, and the Western Slope protection is just not there," he said.
In a memo to council, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord stated Referendum A does not have any mitigation for the economic, social and environmental impacts on local communities or areas where water is being diverted.
"Referendum A appears to have many conflicts and questions regarding environmental impacts on "unidentified" water projects. It appears that many water projects will divert water or buy water rights from Western Slope and rural communities/counties," the memo states.
"Referendum A may pit the interests of large Front Range communities against small, rural West Slope and agricultural needs and interests."
Taylor said the referendum also is silent about what projects the additional $2 billion will create. He compares it to writing a blank check.
Supporters of Referendum A, Save Colorado's Water, say the referendum will increase water storage and conservation without raising taxes.
The Mayor of Craig, David DeRose, and Eagle County Commissioners have given support for Referendum A. U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis of Grand Junction and many other Western Slope elected officials have spoken out against it.
The second ballot question the council is being asked to weigh in on is Taylor's Colorado Tourism Initiative, Amendment 33, which is estimated to raise $47.5 million to $86.2 million in revenue during the next four years.
Taylor proposes putting video lottery terminals in dog- and horse-race tracks and casinos, where 61 percent of the revenue would go to the state and be distributed to parks and recreation departments, state parks, the Great Outdoors Colorado fund, tourism promotion and public school construction.
Taylor said the city loses billions of dollars a year in lost tourism, one of the top three economic drivers in the state. Colorado ranks 19 places behind Indiana on the amount of money it spends promoting the state.
"A lot of jobs are related to tourism in Colorado and certainly in Steamboat Springs," Taylor said.
Video Lottery Terminals will bring much needed money into the state's tourism budget, Taylor said, and the amendment will regulate where those machines can go.
The Colorado Municipal League, existing casinos and historical societies oppose the ballot question. Concerns have been raised that it could increase gambling and the negative impacts of gambling, that funding tourism promotion should be taken to the voters through a tax not through the gaming industry and that the State Historical Fund will lose money from other gambling venues.