In November, Coloradans will vote on Referenda C and D. These referenda deal with the state’s fiscal crisis. There will be lots of coverage and debate on these issues. Those for and against will have facts and figures to support their views.
A broad coalition support these referenda including Governor Bill Owens, a bipartisan group of state legislators, community and business leaders. Supporters of the referenda argue that public services like roads and schools are needed to serve Colorado citizens as well as bring in businesses that help the State’s economy.
There are state legislators and national anti-tax advocates that oppose the referenda. Those against C and D argue that the money should be returned to the taxpayers. Some opponents think the State’s roads should be funded with tolls and public schools should be private.
To understand these two issues it’s important to understand the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution was approved by voters in 1992. This amendment contains two main provisions. The provision that received the most press, prevents a tax increase without voter approval. There will be no changes to this part of the TABOR amendment.
The second provision of the TABOR amendment places spending limits on the amount of revenue a government can collect and spend unless voters approve allowing government to retain the collect money.
Many local governments have received voter approval to retain funds that help public services. This is the first time that the state has gone to voters to seek their approval. It is this provision that is addressed in Referenda C.
Referendum C is the Colorado Economic Recovery Act and does three things.
The plan will allow the state to keep and spend revenues from existing taxes without a tax increase. Currently, the estimated amount of revenue over the next five years is $3 billion.
The plan requires that these funds are spent on state services that help the state’s economy like roads and bridges, state colleges, K-12 education and health care.
The plan adjusts the formula so in the future, the spending limits will not be reduced based on a recession year, allowing the Colorado economy to recover.
Referendum D is the Financing of Critical State Needs and can only become a law if Referendum C passes. Referendum D will allow the state to issue $2.1 billion in multi-year bonds to fund critical road and capital projects.
Up to $1.7 billion will be dedicated to aid road and bridge projects across the state. These projects will come from a list prepared by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
Up to $147 million will be funded for repairs and maintenance in public school buildings.
Up to $50 million will be funded for repairs to state colleges.
Up to $175 million will 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 this Means for Douglas County
If Referenda C and D pass in the November election, many local government services including libraries and schools will receive State funds. Currently, the restrictions of TABOR will reduce funding for these organizations. 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 funding is available. Plans are to widen I-25 from Founders Parkway to Plum Creek, construct a frontage road between CPN and Lone Tree and construct interchanges at Plum Creek and Ridgegate.
For more in depth analysis on these referenda, refer to the Blue Book. The book was prepared by a non partisan group to help in understanding these two issues. Colorado voters will receive this in the mail in the coming weeks.