In November, Coloradans will vote on Referenda C and D. These items ask voters whether the State should retain “excess” revenues to provide services described in the ballot language. During the next few weeks there will be a tremendous amount of coverage and debate on these issues, and a lot of information published. This article will present a brief overview of the ballot issues, and identify sources for more information.
Governor Bill Owens, business and community leaders, and a bipartisan group of state legislators support Referenda C and D. They argue that public services, such as roads and schools, are needed to serve Colorado citizens and support a healthy economy in Colorado.
Other state legislators, and local and national anti-tax advocates, oppose the Referenda. These groups argue that the money should be returned to the taxpayers.
To understand this year’s ballot issues it’s important to first understand the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also known as TABOR.
What is TABOR?
The TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution was approved by voters in 1992. This amendment contains two main provisions. The first provision says that voters must approve any increase in tax rates (such as the percentage of sales tax or income tax). Referenda C and D don’t make any changes to this provision.
Referenda C and D address a second provision of TABOR, which relates to the amount of income that governments receive from these taxes. In recession years, revenues are down, so government spending is down. In good years, revenue goes up, but TABOR language sets a limit about how much “extra” revenue the government can keep, unless voters authorize the government to retain the money collected.
Since TABOR was introduced in 1992, many local governments have used this TABOR provision to obtain voter approval to retain “excess” funds. For instance, the Town of Castle Rock has a TABOR question on the ballot this year. (See article page 6.) Referenda C and D represent the first time that the State of Colorado has gone to voters to seek approval.
Referendum C includes three areas:
If passed, the plan will allow the state to keep and spend revenues from existing taxes without a tax rate increase. Currently, the estimated amount of revenue over the next five years is $3 billion.
The plan requires these funds to be spent on specified state services, such as roads and bridges, state colleges, K-12 education and health care.
The plan will retain the TABOR provision that voters must approve retaining “excess” revenues, but adjusts the formula so, in the future; the spending limits will not be reduced based on a recession year, allowing the revenue to recover from the recession.
Referendum D can only become a law if Referendum C passes. It will allow the state to issue $2.1 billion in multi-year bonds to fund capital projects:
Up to $1.7 billion dedicated to aid road and bridge projects across the state. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has published a list of projects that would be funded by Referendum D.
Up to $147 million funded for repairs and maintenance in public school buildings.
Up to $50 million funded for repairs to state colleges.
Up to $175 million to fund the pensions of retired Colorado firefighters and police officers. The State committed to fund these pension plans, but failed to make payments during the recession years.
What Does This Means for Douglas County?
Referenda C and D would provide funding for programs and projects throughout the state, but some have specific impact in Douglas County.
Many local government services, such as libraries and schools within Douglas County, receive a portion of their funds from the State.
Improvements for roads in Douglas County would also be funded with the passing of C and D. CDOT has a specific list of projects in Douglas County that are ready for construction when and if funding is made available. Some of the plans include widening I-25 from Founders Parkway to Plum Creek, constructing a frontage road between Castle Pines Parkway and Lone Tree, and constructing interchanges at Plum Creek and RidgeGate.
For more information
For more in depth analysis on these referenda, refer to the “Blue Book,” the official analysis of ballot issues that is published each election season. This year’s edition was recently mailed to all registered voters. Visit the CPN website at www.cpnhoa.org to view the Blue Book online, and for links to other information about these ballot issues.