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Three propositions on the ballot this November place a very fundamental public policy question squarely before voters. Are reductions in taxes and fees that put a few more dollars in taxpayers’ pockets of more value than what those tax dollars will buy? Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 are very tempting carrots being dangled in front of voters. Tax reduction and more constraints on government — it doesn’t get much better than that. But there is much more at stake here. What will Colorado look like if Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 are approved? Ask yourself, “Is this my vision for Colorado?”
Whether we stop to think about it very often or not, our very own personal income, property values and general quality of life have a lot to do with the financial health of the state and various local governmental entities. When people are unemployed, roads are in disrepair and schools are eliminating programs, Colorado is a less desirable place to live. Don’t be fooled. These three ballot measures are drastic, far-reaching and punitive proposals that will touch every citizen of this state. Unfortunately, all the estimates of the fiscal impact sound like “doomsday” scenarios. It’s okay to be skeptical, but even the worst predictions may not tell the whole story.
In a nutshell:
• Amendment 60 will cut property tax support for schools in half over the next 10 years and undo many ballot questions that have already been approved by voters.
• Amendment 61 will prohibit the state and all its agencies and authorities from borrowing any money and will severely restrict the ability of local governments to borrow for capital improvements and other projects.
• Proposition 101 reduces the state income tax rate, cuts taxes and fees related to vehicles and reduces taxes or fees on telecommunication devices and systems.
What does this mean in dollars and cents?
If all of these measures were fully implemented in the next fiscal year, the state would lose $2.1 billion in revenue annually and would have to increase K-12 education funding by $1.6 billion each year to “backfill” the lost property tax revenue. The combined impacts mean that K-12 education funding would eventually consume about 99 percent of the state’s general fund budget. In other words, the state would be funding public education, but unable to provide any other services. That’s not all. The full package of revenue reductions brought about by these three proposals is staggering. Colorado will literally be brought to its knees in what has been termed a voter approved recession. Approximately 76,000 private and public sector jobs will be lost, which is nearly as many as the 110,000 lost in the recent recession. Each of these measures is extremely far-reaching and complicated, yet poorly drafted. Yet, even the skeptics have to admit it’s unrealistic to expect that state and local governments in Colorado can continue to serve their citizens if billions of dollars are slashed from their budgets.
I want an education system that provides opportunity for the young people in this community and a higher education system that is first class. I want to continue to have good fire and police protection, streetlights, a parks and recreation center, safe roads and bridges and social services for those in need. I want to build on what’s good about this state and community, not dismantle it piece by piece.
Dr. Barry Williams,
superintendent, and Steve Kraft,
chief financial officer
Rangely School District