Steamboat Springs State Republican politicians are coming down hard against Proposition 101 and proposed state constitutional Amendments 60 and 61, but most of Routt County’s GOP leaders are taking a more nuanced stance, or no stance at all.
The three proposals would drastically reduce the amount of taxes the state government can collect, and requires voter approval for fees as well as taxes.
Among statewide representatives of the region, State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, is among those taking a strong stand against the measures.
“It will bankrupt the state,” he said last week.
Supporters have said the measures would force government to cut spending and operate more efficiently. They have refused to discuss them in person or over the phone, instead responding only via e-mail. Support for the measures can be found at www.cotaxreforms.com.
White said he knows of only a few Republicans who are in favor of the three proposals, and he points to a Legislative Council study that shows that if the measures were implemented all at once next year, 99 percent of all state funding would go to K-12 education, leaving about $38 million to run the rest of the state’s government services, “which is pretty inadequate,” he said.
Democrats have been near universal in their opposition of the ballot measures.
White also told the South Routt School Board on Thursday night that there is no contingency plan if the bills are approved.
“You know what the contingency for 60, 61 and 101 is? There isn’t one. Move to Wyoming,” White said. “My position is hell no. No way.”
Colorado House District 57 incumbent Republican Randy Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, said he doesn’t think the impacts will be as dire as White suggests.
“If they don’t pass, we’re going to have budget problems. If they do pass, we’re going to have budget problems,” he said. “We’re just going to have to find a different way of operating business in Colorado due to a lack of revenue.”
He said cuts already are being made and will continue to be made. He said he doesn’t particularly support the measures but is convinced Colorado will be fine either way.
“If these do pass, will we survive with or without? Yeah, we’ll survive. People in Colorado have a lot of intestinal fortitude, and we’ll buckle down, and we’ll make it through.”
Twenty-three of 27 GOP lawmakers in the state House and five of 14 GOP state senators have signed a letter addressed to all Colorado Republicans urging defeat of the measures, the Denver Post reported Sept. 13.
Other local GOP stances
Routt County Republican Party Chairman Jack Taylor, a former state senator from Steamboat Springs, was noncommittal when asked about the measures this week.
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t studied them,” he said. “From what I understand, I don’t think they’d be very good, (but) until I have a chance to look at them, I don’t want to say something. I haven’t had much time to pay attention to it.”
Taylor said he has been busy putting up campaign signs and is not “up to speed” on the bills.
Kevin Kaminski, the local party’s vice chairman, echoed Taylor.
“To be honest with you I haven’t done any research on that yet,” he said.
He said he didn’t want to comment further until he learned more about the measures.
Governmental bodies across the county already have taken a stand against the three measures because of the potential funding impacts.
The school boards for the Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt school districts all passed measure opposing the ballot initiatives, as did the Routt County Board of Commissioners and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.
In May, County Manager Tom Sullivan told commissioners that if the measures pass and Routt County was unable to borrow money for more than 10 years, the county couldn’t do repairs such as those on Routt County Road 14.
Also at the time, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the county would provide fewer county services if voters approved the measures. Commissioner Doug Monger said the approval of the measures would be a financial windfall for taxpayers, and added, “But I’m not sure you’d want to be here because there won’t be anything left,” he said.
The issue will go before the Steamboat Springs City Council at an Oct. 5 meeting, City Manager Jon Roberts said.
He said Council members will review a report and draft legislation from the Colorado Municipal League, which strongly opposes the measure.
“Passage of these measures would seriously erode the reliability of basic services, the attraction of new business to the state, and our ability to enjoy the quality of life we have created for our families,” the League stated in a news release.
Roberts said that he has not taken a personal position on the bill. He said he thinks government expenditures should be kept to a minimum, instead of curtailing revenue as the three measures would do. Roberts said that regardless of the outcome, he’s confident the state-funded agencies would adapt.
“It’s been my experience just in the past with TABOR is government agencies typically find a way to continue to operate under the environment of whatever the new regulations are.”
Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 at a glance
Amendment 60 proposes several changes to Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution (The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights). Among its many provisions, Amendment 60 amends the Colorado Constitution to:
■ Specify requirements for future property tax elections held by local governments
■ Repeal the current voter-approved authority of local governments to retain and spend property taxes above their constitutional limit
■ Permit citizens to petition any local government to lower property taxes
■ Reduce property tax revenue in support of public schools and replace this with state aid
■ Require enterprises and authorities to pay property taxes and reduce local property tax rates to offset the new revenue
Amendment 61 places new restrictions on government borrowing. Beginning in 2011, all future state government borrowing, including for enterprises, would be prohibited. Local governments would have more restrictive borrowing limits than under current law:
■ Borrowing could not exceed 10 percent of assessed taxable value of real property
■ Borrowing would require voter approval at a November election, even for local jurisdictions that currently do not have a defined voter base
■ All new borrowing would need to be repaid within 10 years
■ Borrowing would need to be issued with the ability to be fully repaid at any
Proposition 101 asks voters to reduce or eliminate various taxes and fees on income, vehicles and telecommunication services. Some of the reductions are phased in throughout time.
■ Income taxes: Proposition 101 lowers the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent throughout time.
■ Taxes and fees on vehicles: Proposition 101 reduces vehicle registration and license fees and the sales and specific ownership taxes paid on vehicles. Proposition 101 also phases in a reduction to specific ownership taxes during four years, beginning in 2011, for individual vehicle owners. Proposition 101 combines all registration, licensing and titling fees on vehicles into a single $10 annual fee beginning in 2011, with the exception of vehicle inspection and new license plate fees.
■ Taxes and fees on telecommunications services: Proposition 101 eliminates state and local sales tax and other fees on customer bills for any kind of telecommunications service, except for existing 911 fees. Currently, the state and some local governments charge sales tax on a portion of the cost of phone services, and some local governments charge sales tax on cable services. State fees on telecommunications services that are eliminated include fees that subsidize access to phone service in rural areas of the state; to people who are blind, deaf or speech impaired; and to low-income people. Local governments may have other fees, such as television franchise fees, that may be eliminated.
■ Voter approval requirements: Proposition 101 redefines all telecommunications fees and most vehicle fees as taxes. Because the state constitution requires a vote to increase taxes, governments would need to ask voters for permission to create new or increase existing vehicle or telecommunication charges in the future. Proposition 101 excludes vehicle-related fines, parking fees, tolls, vehicle impound fees, vehicle identification and emission inspection fees, and new license plate fees from this requirement.
■ Auditing requirements: Proposition 101 requires the state to conduct annual audits to ensure that all governments are complying with the tax and fee reductions in the measure.
Source: Colorado Legislative Council staff analysis