Message to voters on ballot measures: Just say no

Reeves Brown
Reeves Brown

Phil Castle
Business Times

The director of a regional group and the mayor of Grand Junction urge voters to just say no to three measures on the upcoming election ballot.

Reeves Brown, executive director of Club 20, and Mayor Teresa Coons voiced their opposition to Amendment  60 and 61 as well as Proposition 101. Club 20 and the Grand Junction City Council have come out against the three measures.

“The impacts are so dire for your state and community,” Coons said.

Speaking at a Business Over Breakfast presentation at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, Brown and Coons said the measures are too drastic in cutting taxes and fees and limiting the ability of the government to borrow money.

“All they do is take a meat clever to government,” Brown said. Added Coons: “To my mind, it’s like cutting off your head when you have a cold.”

Amendment 60 would change the Colorado Constitution to lower the property tax rates for public school district operating expenses by half over 10 years, then require that state funding replace tax revenues. The amendment also would repeal the authority of local governments to keep property tax revenues above constitutional limits, required publicly owned enterprises to pay property taxes and reduce local tax rates to offset that revenue and provide new voting rights to property owners.

Teresa Coons
Teresa Coons

Amendment 61 would change the state constitution to prohibit new state government borrowing after 2010, prohibit local government borrowing unless approved by voters, limit the amount and duration of government borrowing and require that tax rates be reduced after borrowing is fully repaid.

Proposition 101 would change state laws to gradually reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent; reduce or eliminate taxes and fees on vehicle purchases, leases and rentals; eliminate fees on telecommunication services except for 911 fees; and require voter approval to create or increase fees on vehicles or telecommunication services.

Brown said Club 20 believes that government should be more accountable, efficient and transparent, but that the three ballot measures don’t promote those goals. Moreover,  disapproval of increased government spending should be directed at the federal level, not the state level, he said.

The provisions of Amendment 60, combined with another constitutional amendment that requires increased spending on K-12 education and other demands on state funding, would drastically shift general fund allocations.

The proportion of funding for K-12 education would more than double from 44 percent to 92 percent, Brown said. That would leave only 8 percent for such other state functions as courts, prisons and higher education. “How do you run the state on 8 percent of the current budget?”

Amendment 61 would make Colorado the only state unable to obtain public financing and effectively eliminate the ability of local governments to obtain financing, Brown said.

And the reduced vehicle fees wouldn’t even cover the cost of processing the paperwork, he added.

While it’s understandable there could be voter backlash to substantial increases in vehicle registration fees last year, Brown said those fees hadn’t been raised in more than a decade.

The elimination of telecommunications fees could hurt rural communities, where those fees help to pay for the installation of telephone and Internet infrastructure, Brown said.

Brown said the overall effect of passage of the three measures would be to drastically reduce government services and cut jobs. Businesses would be effected as fewer companies relocate or open in Colorado.

While there’s a disconnection between paying taxes and receiving government services, Brown said it would be naive to slash taxes and expect a “magic money fairy” to somehow backfill funding for those services.

Coons said passage of the measures would reduce funding the City of Grand Junction receives from vehicle taxes and registration fees, while imposing property taxes on such city owned properties as its wastewater treatment facilities and the land it owns atop the Grand Mesa around city water supplies.

Coons also questioned a provision of Amendment 60 repealing the authority of local governments to “de-Bruce” and keep tax revenues above the limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Grand Junction received voter approval to do just that to more quickly pay off bonds issued to finance construction of the Riverside Parkway and in turn reduce the interest on that financing.

Amendment 61 would hamper the ability of the city to borrow money for capital construction projects, she said. “We’re going to quit doing major capital construction.”

She said she’s also concerned about whether the definition of government debt would be extended to leases, putting the lease of copy machines up to a public vote.

Coons said city staff is preparing three budget scenarios for next year: one if tax revenues decline slightly next year, a second if revenue is projected to drop 5 percent and a third, “Armageddon” option if the three ballot measures pass. “We hope we never go there,” she said of the last option.

Coons said the overall effect of passage of the three ballot measures would be to diminish the community. “I think we’re going to see a change in the qualify of life in our community.”