These voter-sponsored initiatives were written and submitted by citizen activist groups as is their right in the state of Colorado. Although I understand the frustration at government that these initiatives were conceived in, I think they are misguided in their ability to bring fiscal responsibility to the state.
These initiatives would be devastating to our local governments and school districts, placing burdensome requirements on their ability to plan and budget appropriately for the future. Additionally, they would cripple the state’s ability to meet demands for a growing population and crumbling infrastructure.
Amendment 60 is a siren’s call of promises of lower property taxes but would wreck local school districts by cutting their revenue by 50 percent. Proponents say we shouldn’t worry because that loss would be backfilled with revenue from the state. But where would that money come from? The state already has been forced to make drastic cuts to meet its state requirement to balance its budget. But proponents of Amendment 60 would have us spend nearly $1 billion more on K-12 education. This would lead to cuts in every other service the state provides, including road maintenance, snow removal, higher education and corrections.
Amendment 61 would eliminate the state’s ability to bond for capital construction projects and severely limit local governments’ ability to do so, as well. School districts and local governments would be required to pay off their bonds within only 10 years, far less than the 20 to 30 years they have now. In rural areas, this would drastically limit the ability for some projects to be built or even considered. Public buildings across the state would go into decay for lack of the ability to renovate or replace them. At the state level, many infrastructure projects would simply never be built as 100 percent of the project’s cost would have to be paid for at the time of the project’s completion. Imagine having to pay for your house without the benefit of a mortgage. How many of us would live in our own homes if we had to pay cash for them? Additionally, Amendment 61 comes with another bonus little poison pill, which is that whenever any project is paid for, taxes must be cut by the amount that was going to pay off the bonds. That’s like paying off your car and then asking your employer to cut your income by $300 a month. In terms of what it would do to the state, when the bonds for the T-Rex project in Denver are paid off, the state gas tax would have to be cut by $168 million a year. That’s revenue that would be directly taken out of our transportation budget and could not be used to enhance our deteriorating highway infrastructure.
Proposition 101 is an arbitrary tax-gutting initiative. In many ways it is an overreaction to the FASTER bill I voted against in the legislature as an unconstitutional raising of the vehicle registration fee. However, Proposition 101 is far too drastic of a swing in the other direction. Prop 101 would slash the vehicle registration fee to just $10, a rate it hasn’t been at since the early 1900s. This would cut nearly one-fourth of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s budget. Also, it would cut $500 million annually out of the specific ownership tax by lowering this tax on the sale of vehicles, which is money that goes directly to local governments. Finally, it would reduce our state income tax to 3.5 percent throughout time, eliminating nearly one-fourth of state revenues.
I want to be clear, I am not for higher taxes. I am a fiscal conservative. But these initiatives are not fiscally conservative, they are fiscal suicide. I am campaigning hard to win your vote and to earn your trust to ensure that your hard-earned money is spent frugally and responsibly to meet the demands of our communities and our state. I have worked hard in Denver during the past two years to make the tough decisions to cut spending and balance the budget. These initiatives would make an already difficult job nearly impossible. They would wreak havoc on our state and local budgets and hinder our ability to grow ourselves out of this recession. Please vote no on Amendment 60, 61 and Proposition 101.
State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, represents House District 57.