Steamboat Chamber opposes anti-tax measures

Board takes position against Proposition 101, Amendments 60, 61

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At a glance

■ Proposition 101 would reduce taxes and fees, mostly vehicle taxes — called specific ownership taxes — that help fund school districts.

■ Amendment 60 would force school districts to slash their mill levies in half by 2020 and repeal voter-approved tax increases, such as mill levy overrides.

■ Amendment 61 would require local governments to get voter approval to borrow, and to repay debt in 10 years. The amendment also prohibits the state from borrowing.

— The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Board of Directors last week formally opposed three anti-tax measures on the ballot this fall.

Colorado voters in Nov­ember will decide whether to approve Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, all of which are citizen-led initiatives aimed at decreasing taxes and reducing government spending.

Chamber Board President Bob Larson said that because the measures affect so many entities that are unable to speak out about them, because of the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, the board chose to make a stand.

“The proponents of Prop­osition 101, Amendments 60 and 61 are presenting these initiatives at a time when businesses and families are strapped,” he said. “So the idea of tax reductions in any form is tempting. However, when one looks at the true impacts of these things, the impacts are broad and significant in a negative way to many of our local institutions and service providers.”

Proposition 101 would reduce taxes and fees, mostly vehicle taxes — called specific ownership taxes — that help fund school districts. Amendment 60 would force school districts to slash their mill levies in half by 2020 and repeal voter-approved tax increases, such as mill levy overrides. Amendment 61 would require local governments to get voter approval to borrow and to repay debt in 10 years. The amendment also would prohibit the state from borrowing.

Larson said the Chamber’s board worked with the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Steamboat Springs School District and other entities to learn how the ballot measures would affect them.

In its position, the board cited several “devastating impacts” of each ballot measure to the school district, city, county and state as reasons for its opposition.

The board’s position stated that implementation of Proposition 101 would reduce annual revenues from vehicle taxes for the school district ($1.23 million), county ($5.69 million) and city ($954,000).

The position stated that Amendment 60 would repeal voter-approved tax increases above limits set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Such approvals are commonly called “de-Brucing,” after TABOR architect Doug Bruce. Such a repeal, the position stated, would annually affect county programs by more than $1.6 million. The Chamber board’s position stated that the measure also would eliminate more than $1.4 million in voter-approved mill levy overrides for the school district.

It stated that Amendment 61 would not have allowed the city and county to use Certificates of Participation to finance buildings such as City Hall, the Steamboat Springs Community Center and the Routt County Justice Center. It stated that the measure would limit the future construction of schools, public infrastructure at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, a senior center or expansion of Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus.

Outreach efforts

The Bell Policy Center, a Denver nonprofit organization, has estimated that full implementation of Proposition 101 would cost the state more than $2.3 billion in lost revenue, including about $622 million for local governments and school districts. The policy center estimated Amendment 60 would cost the state another $1 billion, mostly from the state having to make up the difference from school districts cutting their mill levies in half by 2020.

Supporters have said the measures would force the government to cut spending and operate more efficiently. Support for the measures can be found at www.cotaxreforms.com.

Chamber Executive Vice Pres­­ident Sandy Evans Hall said part of its mission is to educate the public.

“Our mission is to provide a viable and healthy economy,” she said. “When we find things we feel are going to be in opposition of that, we feel we should let people know about the impacts.”

Larson said when the Chamber’s board approved its position opposing the ballot measures, it also approved an action plan to educate Steamboat residents about the position and the measures.

He said the Chamber will begin sending e-mails with information about how the measures will affect local governments to its members, along with information online at www.steamboat-chamber.com. Larson said the Chamber also intends to schedule presentations with local organizations and business groups and to host community forums, but they haven’t yet been scheduled.

“We just think this is really important to the community that people understand the details of” the ballot measures, he said.

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