Divided chamber backs city ballot measures

After wrestling with whether to back ballot measures that would increase the city’s sales-tax rate and lift revenue caps, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors has decided to do so symbolically but not financially.

In a split vote last week, board members agreed to support measures seeking to bump up the city’s 2.75
percent sales tax by a quarter-cent and bypass spending limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. But they declined a funding request from Citizens for a Safer Grand Junction, a political action committee formed to campaign for the initiatives.

Diane Schwenke, chamber president and chief executive officer, said the chamber will not campaign for the ballot measures.

“We’re going to kind of let others lead that charge,” she said.

That position is different than the one the chamber has taken in the past in regards to city ballot questions. Two years ago, the chamber led the charge to pass a ballot measure allowing the city to override TABOR to pay off the Riverside Parkway debt more quickly.

The chamber board has spent several weeks debating its position on the sales-tax question, which would generate $98 million for new public safety buildings, and the TABOR question, which would lead to a permanent increase in revenue for the city. The TABOR question doesn’t specify how the money would be spent, although city officials have said it would go toward paying off the public safety project debt and paying for capital projects and city services.

The chamber in July favored the sales-tax increase but asked the city to limit revenue from a potential TABOR override to paying off the public safety project debt. In August, though, it postponed a decision on the measures after the City Council worded the TABOR question in such a way that a revenue increase would be permanent and nonspecific in how it would be spent.

The board was scheduled to take up the issue again next week, but board President Betty Bechtel called a special meeting last week. Board members discussed the ballot measures for an hour and a half before voting, Schwenke said.

“This board was really, really thoughtful in looking at this thing from all different angles,” she said.

In the end, “We know we need to have it (new public safety buildings). It’s not the funding mechanism we would have chosen, but we support it.”


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