Our View: A close look at ‘anti-tax’ measures


Editorial Board, April 2010 to Aug. 8, 2010

  • Suzanne Schlicht, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Towny Anderson, community representative
  • Tatiana Achcar, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The November election is almost six months away, but that hasn’t stopped local government officials from sparking discussions about three citizen-led ballot initiatives that we think would have a devastating effect on the ability of state and local government to provide core services for residents.

We applaud the Steamboat Springs School District, Routt County Board of Commissioners and city of Steamboat Springs for broaching the subject in May. Although the Fair Campaign Practices Act prevents public dollars and resources from being used to influence voters on ballot issues, it’s perfectly appropriate for our local officials to provide factual summaries and analyses of the ballot measures and their potential effect on Northwest Colorado.

At issue are proposed state constitutional Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, each aimed at decreasing taxes and reducing government spending. For a lot of folks fed up with the federal government, our nation’s mounting debt and a crippling recession, paying less in taxes and limiting the size of government sounds too good to be true.

It is.

Proposition 101 would, throughout a period of several years, reduce the state’s income tax from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent, slash vehicle registration fees to $2 for new vehicles and $1 for older vehicles, and eliminate other taxes and fees such as those on telecommunications accounts.

Amendment 60 would, among other things, restore the tax limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, cut school district mill levy rates in half and force the state to provide the backfill, and Amendment 61 would significantly limit government’s ability to borrow, including preventing governments from using certificates of participation as a funding mechanism for capital projects.

Collectively, the trio of measures would have a profound impact on quality of life and basic, core government services at the state and local levels. Early estimates indicate the measures would cost Colorado a minimum of $1 billion a year in tax revenues.

Locally, Steamboat school officials estimate Proposition 101 would cost the district $1.23 million in revenues in a four-year period, and Amendment 60 would result in the loss next year of $1.5 million.

Routt County’s finance director told commissioners the full implementation of Proposition 101 would cost the county $2 million a year, and Amendment 60 could result in between $1.7 million and $3.9 million in lost revenue from voter-approved mill levy overrides. The county manager also said Amendment 61 would prohibit the county from being able to repair Routt County Road 14 because of a provision that governments must repay all debt within 10 years.

It should come as no surprise that anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce, the controversial Colorado Springs resident, is at the heart of the ballot measures. It was Bruce who led efforts in the early 1990s to pass the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which limits government’s ability to grow and requires all increases be put to a public vote. Many say TABOR and its ramifications partly are responsible for the devastating fiscal situation in which the state finds itself.

Opponents want to know what role Bruce played in supporting Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, for which a group of professional and amateur petition circulators collected the requisite number of signatures last year to get the measures on the 2010 ballot. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, eight of the professional petition circulators lived in an apartment building owned by Bruce, who has refused to respond to a court order compelling him to testify in a deposition related to three campaign finance complaints tied to the November ballot initiatives.

Regardless of how the initiatives came to be, what’s important is that voters understand the consequences — intended and unintended. It will be tempting come fall — particularly in the midst of a recession — to fall victim to campaign spots that promise reduced income taxes and vehicle registration fees. We think voters are smarter than that and will see the crippling effect Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 would have on state and local governments, which will be manifested in the diminishment, and in some cases abolishment, of services.

It’s never too early to get informed. For that reason, we’re pleased to see local officials taking a proactive approach to shining a spotlight on these ballot measures. It’s hard to imagine that, armed with the facts, voters could support such ill-conceived initiatives come November.


OnceLivedHere 6 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps if our government spent less time misspending the funds they have received, they wouldn't be facing these proposals. It seems government is more interested in building it's own infrastructure than it is following the will of the people. It's clearly time for governments to look at what their true mandates are not at the amenities with brass plaques or the special interests they seem to place ahead needs of the people. Prudence in spending is a far superior avenue to attacking the people who give you your jobs.


Brian Kotowski 6 years, 11 months ago

Never met a tax cut I didn't like. And what does Bruce providing lodging to the "professional circulators" have to do with anything? If it's a violation of some sort, why not include that information in the article? It seems clear the Pilot has an axe to grind where Bruce is concerned.


Oscar 6 years, 11 months ago

TX has much lower taxes than CO and has a booming economy with plenty of revenues for state and local needs. What is it that the tax and spend people don't understand about what lower taxes can do for the economy as well as government tax revenues? I need not remind readers that right here in SBS, we have plenty of examples of the city spending on very unnecessary projects over the last decade on ventures that should have been left to the private sector. It's time we swing the pendulum the other direction.


seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago

I wonder how much it would cost to remodel a bathroom just like the ones at the Library? let alone all the other amenities like all the marble etc. that was used. What was the final cost to that job, $14 mil or so. Ah, those were the good times. Now we pay for it in cuts, oops, except the School Super.

Looks like we have some irritation from the author of this viewpoint........ "It should come as no surprise that anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce, the controversial Colorado Springs resident, is at the heart of the ballot measures. It was Bruce who led efforts in the early 1990s to pass the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which limits government’s ability to grow and requires all increases be put to a public vote. Many say TABOR and its ramifications partly are responsible for the devastating fiscal situation in which the state finds itself."

Yea, just like the housing bubble, blame it on the Conservatives for not wanting higher taxes. Fixing the financial mess we find our Country in will take a sweeping at the ballot box on November 2 and Hawaii is just the primer.


sledneck 6 years, 11 months ago

Thank God for Douglas Bruce.

Perhaps, if government had lived within the confines of the constitution, this would not be happening. Government, across the board, needs to shrink by 65-80%.It's screwing up my life, trampeling on my freedom, empowering idiots, meddling where it has no business and, worst of all, it's using my tax dollars to do it.

How 'bout a story from the "pile-it" about all the wasteful projects that could have been used to pay for these things it now sees as "essential"???????????????????


JLM 6 years, 11 months ago

The comments in this thread thus far are universally in favor of the tax reductions contemplated by these actions.

These actions are in accordance with the laws of the state of Colorado. There is nothing amiss with the methodology which has been used to get these matters onto the ballot.

The voters shall indicate their sentiments shortly and I suspect that no amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth will motivate a voter to vote against these initiatives.

Those who serve in the public sector need to start listening to their employers --- that would be the voters --- and start conforming their spending plans to that of the voters.

In November, you will either vote to be a willing lackey of the big spenders or you will inject some discipline into system. Big spenders beware!


jerry carlton 6 years, 11 months ago

The library costs me 11.11 per month. I was doing fine with the old library. CMC costs me 16.65 per month. Let the kids who come here to ski pay for CMC. I will be really shocked if any of these pass but I will be voting for them. Oh, I forgot, if we had not built a new library, we would not have had to build a new community center. My house appraised at 628,250 for 2008. We will see if it drops to 400,000 for 2010 which is probably what it would sell for if I could find any one to buy it.


Brian Kotowski 6 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like a plotline for a Twilight Zone episode: a Cuomo running on spending cuts and no tax hikes - http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/05/23/2010-05-23_andrew_attacks_albany.html If he's not careful, he'll be lumped in with those racist tea partiers.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 11 months ago

So why is it responsible to cut property taxes in half in a few years and say the state will make up the difference? If you believe half of what you say then you most certainly do not want the state determining the funding of local schools. And if you want to cut funding to the schools then say that is the plan, do not promise a plan that won't work.

The rule on debt is not limited to preventing government from hiding deficits behind debt or limit government debt to levels that do not threaten the solvency of government. It goes after all debt including major infrastructure projects that any business or person would use debt in order to complete the project and then finish paying for it. It does not make sense to require the county save the money for 10 years in order to rebuilt cty road 14. Makes far more sense for the county to do it now and then pay for it over the next 10 years.

These are not intended to make government smarter or more efficient as some of the supporters claim. These measures would make government less efficient and make local schools dependent upon the State for funding. These are intended to break local government.


Paul Hughes 6 years, 11 months ago

Don't be misled into thinking that these measures are about taxes. They're about control: whether you should have any control over what services your town and county should provide, and how you want to pay for them. It's hard to make these complicated decisions; it's so much easier to say "sorry, but the law says that taxes must go down, no matter what we believe we need." We need to keep telling the Doug Bruces (aka "The Mysterious Mr. X") to mind their own towns' business, and that we're quite capable of taking care of our own. In fact, we're the only people who should be making decisions about our local concerns.

I know I said I wouldn't participate in comment strings that contain anonymous comments, but this is too important to let slide. Now I'll go back and sit down.


aichempty 6 years, 11 months ago

The only so-called "services" we need from government are those which private citizens are not empowered to exercise. These include police, fire, public health and safety, and those few other areas where the government can do something (confiscate property, imprison, execute, institutionalize, etc.) that would be a crime if a private citizen did it. All the rest, including education, can be provided by the taxpayers for themselves and their dependents.

Public schools were once a good idea, but now they've gone so far over the edge with anti-captialist dogma and social activism that the ideas of working hard and succeeding have given way to being willing to live on the public dole wherever it's available.

In our current economy, most kids don't need to know more than how to make change and read a bar code. Amazingly, a lot of them cannot do THAT! Yet, they know all about how the evil people who built this country victimized the working class. What's the solution? Don't work. Voila! No victimization, just governmental bankruptcy.

A realistic view of the future, based on the past, shows us that the vast unemployment and falling govrnment revenues is going to result in tens of millions of people out of work. They will be forced to resort to subsistence farming on plots furnished with a FEMA trailer and basic sanitation facilities. Men will sit around at the end of the day smoking (something!), drinking, playing cards, fighting, stabbing each other and allowing their families to live in squalor. Why do I say this? Because that's how it was during the Great Depression when the manufacturing jobs that made this country great were not yet created.

We've sold out our future with social programs, high taxes, and entitlements that cannot be sustained. The peasants in Mexico have it better today than a lot of Americans are going to have it in a few years, because the peasants know that help is not coming.

We cannot have all the benefits of a high standard of living (health care, homes, education, etc.) if we don't have a strong economy to pay for it. That's just the simple truth. People used to stay home because they could not afford to travel, and those days are coming back.

The issue is not taxation. It's spending. It's an expectation of entitlements. The proverbial Visa card is maxed, and it's only a matter of time before lifestyles have to change.

Steamboat has relied on sales taxes from tourism for many years. The people around here are used to having someone else pay their way. It won't work anymore, and the empty homes around the county are the proof. People had better learn to live without government services except police and fire, and hope we can afford those.

At least the illegals and those who can't find work will have to leave and reduce the pressue. It's just the natural course of things, like evolution and erosion.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 11 months ago

Aic, I appreciate your comments. I really do because they are honest. I consider an amendment that cuts property taxes by half and claims that the state will make up the difference to be dishonest.

The people that think you are right should probably vote for the amendments. The people that think public schools do a better job than the parents would do with home schooling or what they could pay should probably vote against them.


housepoor 6 years, 11 months ago

So what generation has the biggest impact in making what the US government and healthcare looks like today?


JLM 6 years, 11 months ago

I must applaud the articulate argument presented by AICHEMPTY. Well played!

In the end, the public is simpy saying ---

  1. We no longer trust you as stewards of our money.

  2. You are taking too much of our money.

  3. We don't trust your intellectual instincts as to how to spend our money.

  4. You are not getting the results making us question why you should get an ever increasing slice of our money.

  5. Enough is enough.

  6. Every financial engine has a breaking point and you have reached ours. Stop it!

These are perfectly legitimate considerations. Make the faceless administrators who think they are "entitled" to your labor come to the public square and make their case based upon the results they have delivered.

That will not happen as the facts do not support their desires.


aichempty 6 years, 11 months ago


I am not opposed to free public education. I am opposed to the wasteful bureaucracy that goes into today's public education with no apparent benefit.

The free public schools which produced the engineers and scientists who invented supersonic flight and moon rockets didn't have one computer. Same for the doctors and researchers who perfected heart transplants and developed vaccines to prevent polio and small pox.

The ability of a child to learn is related more to development, nutrition and genetics than anything else. Brains can only learn certain skills until they have developed to a point that allows new skills to be understood and retained. At the same time, some skills must be learned early in development, or they will be lost forever (the ability to pronounce certain sounds, for example, which is why Asians raised in English-speaking homes in Tennessee develop a southern accent while Asians raised in Japan or China find it impossible to speak English without an accent). Schools need to present certain types of material (language, mathematics, music, art) at the right age and in the right amount to take advantage of developing brains. Long experience has taught that the "right" age to teach a subject is the age when the kids can first comprehend it.

Our primary and secondary school systems could be trimmed down to the basics with no loss to society in the long run. People only need to graduate from high school with skills for basic clerical jobs, technical skills appropriate for entry-level "manufacturing" and mechanical/electrical jobs, and the ability to read and write well enough to understand basic contracts and agreements, and maybe to read a ballot and vote. Those who are gifted will excel in high school and go on to higher education regardless of the rest who do not. A proper foundation in mathematics, physics, chemistry, language, history and government is all that anyone needs to enter college, because everything in college is taught differently anyway. If a high school graduate can use a formula in a book to get the answer to an electrical or plumbing or carpentry problem, that's all he needs. If he wants to build space ships, that's what college calculus and higher mathematics are for.

Public schools became a tool for social justice almost 50 years ago, and sometime later, they became a jobs program for teachers and administrators. At the same time, teachers' salaries have increased, school staffs have ballooned and expenses have gone through the roof, while fewer kids graduate, the ones who do have lower test scores, and in general, today's graduate needs remedial studies in college to reach what used to be a 12th grade reading and comprehension level.

So, lots more money has not accomplished the goals of public education that were being met very well by schools back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. More money is not the answer. Less money spent on the right priorities is what we need.


John Fielding 6 years, 11 months ago

Aich has hit the nail on the head, less money better spent.

It may be that the only way to get there is to break the system, not change it, then rebuild it. That will be very painful and disruptive. Many of our children may suffer.

I do believe that the benefit to society of an educated populace is so great, and the lack of it so damaging, that universal education of children must continue to be required, and society as a whole participate in its support.

Careful studies conducted in Massachusetts during the past decade reveal clearly that there is not a direct correlation between the amount of money spent per child and their success in learning. In fact the district with the highest spending, Cambridge, a wealthy town, ranked among the very lowest in student achievement at, the highest per pupil investment.

Many factors were identified, but chief among them were the ability of the teachers and the degree of parental involvement. Paying more money to highly motivated and talented teachers clearly works. And nothing is as effective as a loving parent actively participating in the process.

One of our Nation's most serious problems is the decline of the cohesive, supportive family unit. The studies confirmed the terrible disadvantage of a single parent family on most of the children who endure that condition. Exceptions are not unusual, but generally reveal a highly motivated parent or child, or the presence of a surrogate mentor of some kind. And there are obviously parents who are present but uninvolved.

And indoctrination is part and parcel of education, but when it is imbalanced it can be very disruptive to society. All of the values that make our culture great need to be taught, including the traditional ones like patriotism, hard work, thrift, entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to assist oppressed peoples, bravery, dedication to principals (such as Liberty and Justice for All), and some newer concepts such as appreciation of the interconnectedness and interdependence of Life on Earth, and the peculiar role of modern mankind in responsible stewardship

We can yet achieve maintaining a well educated populace, but we must let the system be freed from the constraints imposed by often well meaning but also self serving unions, social activists, politicians, and others. We need to take a good hard look at all of our current practices with the understanding that they all are subject to change, improvement, or elimination.

It may be that drastic funding cuts will be the only thing that will allow that process to commence. It is a certainty that enough people feel the current system is failing that such a measure may come to pass.



NamVet 6 years, 11 months ago

In Steamboat the average teacher with a Master's Degree makes about $40,000 a year plus medical benefits which are extremely poor. I would not consider that an enormous amount of money especially with the cost of living here. In my opinion teachers are the most underpaid profession in this country with few exceptions. If the District is spending too much money it is not on teacher salaries. If students are doing poorly it is more than likely the parents fault who fail to make sure their children are doing the required work instead of TV and video games. Unfortunately in today"s society many parents look at school as baby sitters. It all goes back to personal responsibility which this country lacks in all aspects. It is always someone else fault. Just look at the 3 CEO's that testified before Congress on the oil spill disaster. All they did is point the finger to the other guy. No one was willing to take responsibility for the mess they created just to save $500,000 which may well cost tens of billions. If you really want to see what is wrong with the country all you have to do is look in a mirror. Yesterday was Memorial Day and for most it was a time to party. Yet each week at least 12 of our military men and women are killed in the Middle East. Most people could care less because it does not affect them. They don't serve and they refuse to pay for the wars Only our Military and their families have been making 100% of the sacrifice for almost 10 years.


John Fielding 6 years, 11 months ago


You are sure right about teachers being underpaid for all the training and demands that profession requires. And therein may lie one of the most effective remedies for poor performance by students.

What would happen if teachers salaries were doubled and their performance was measured as a basis for their annual contract renewal?

The competition for teaching positions would be active, with many of the smartest and most able of our community trying for a position. Many who now hold those jobs would be successful, but any and all who do their jobs poorly would be replaced.

The difficulty would still be in administration. How can one fairly judge what is exemplary performance over merely competent when the subject is children learning?

I don't have that answer, but there are many working hard to find it. If teaching becomes a highly paid profession the answers will emerge.

Lets try it.



John Fielding 6 years, 11 months ago


A possibility has been suggested by a friend who asked me to post it here.

It is similar to charter schools, to allow private educational enterprises to be funded with public monies and use public school facilities.

My wife is presently trying to implement a similar sort of service through our non profit foundation, the Winter Gardens Conservatory Scholarship Fund. She plans to create an orchestra program for children who have little or no experience in music, at no cost to the student beyond their instrument and textbooks. She hopes to have it functional by this fall.

It will be essentially identical to those she taught in public schools. She plans to do it without compensation at first in the hope that once it is established it will find sufficient support in the community to allow her to receive some pay for her efforts.

The motivation is a reaction to such programs not being as available as they once were in the public schools. Perhaps some other divisions of education could follow such a model as well.

Food for thought.



John Fielding 6 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, no spell check I can find on this computer.


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