Opponent to ballot measures emerges


Ballot measures on state revenue, taxes

Amendment 60

Amends the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to allow property owners to vote on property taxes where they own property rather than where they live; limit property tax increases to 10 years; cut school district tax rates by 50 percent, requiring the state to cover the loss; and repeals any local de-TABOR ballot questions dealing with property taxes approved by voters.

Amendment 61

Amends TABOR to prohibit the state from entering into any debt; bar any statewide voter approval to borrow money; preserves voter-approved borrowing for local governments, but limits debt to 10 years; bans court-approved bonding, such as certificates of participation and lease-purchase agreements; and cuts taxes equal to any existing bond payment when it is paid off.

Proposition 101

Immediately reduces the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent, and then lowers it 0.1 percentage point a year over 10 years if annual income tax revenue increases by 6 percent; reduces vehicle registration fees to a flat $10 a year; lowers ownership taxes to $2 for new vehicles, and $1 for older ones; and ends all fees except 911 charges on phones, cell phones and pagers.

Source: Colorado Legislative Council, Office of Legislative Legal Services

The issue committee that has fought several revenue-limiting ballot questions over the past decade and a half is gearing up for yet another battle.

But this year’s effort to defeat Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 could be the biggest challenge yet for Coloradans for Responsible Reform, says its leader, Denver political consultant Rick Reiter.

That’s why Reiter and Dan Hopkins, press secretary to former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, are pulling the issue committee out of mothballs in an effort to defeat “the evil three” ballot questions that would dramatically cut state and local taxes, reduce numerous fees and prohibit the state from ever borrowing money again.

Reiter said that while the three measures at first blush may seem to be appealing to voters, they would devastate the state’s economy in ways drafters of the three ideas may not have considered.

“People will at first be interested in hearing more about them because they touch on themes that they are frustrated about, but I have to believe that under further scrutiny is going to lead people to the feeling that at worse case, these aren’t a good idea,” Reiter said. “It’s going to be clear that these three measures combined are going to cost $4.2 billion in state and local budgets, and almost 100,000 jobs. So the message of these three measures is tantamount to a ballot-approved recession.”

Those jobs aren’t government ones, but private sector positions, he said, adding that during the current recession, Colorado lost about 110,000 jobs.

Natalie Menton, campaign coordinator for the three ballot questions, said Reiter’s numbers are overblown.

Menton agreed that government would end up with less money than it takes in now. That’s the point.

But keeping that money in the hands of Coloradans and their businesses will more than make up for government job losses, she said.

“These are moderate, modest proposals for taxes and tax reform,” Menton said. “They are phased in over many years, so it’s a gradual process. The more money that we can put into individuals’ hands and business owners’, that’s what really grows an economy.”

To date, the two campaigns are worlds apart not only on their opinions about the measures, but in how much they’ve collected to persuade voters of their stance.

Although Menton’s issue committee, Colorado Tax Reforms, has collected $670, Reiter’s has amassed $770,000.

Reiter said that despite Menton’s assertion that business wants more money in its hands, it’s the state’s business community that is funding the opposition. The bulk of his money has come from such folks as the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce ($250,000), the Colorado Contractors’ Association ($150,000) and the Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers Association ($100,000).

Another $92,000 came from Protect Colorado’s Communities, another issue committee formed to fight the three ballot measures.

Menton said that money will only level the playing field for the opponents against the recent anti-incumbent, anti-government sentiment that has swept the nation in recent months, which she says will convince people to vote her way.

“We felt it was the right time to put these remedies on the ballot because of the actions of the government, so it happens to be coincidence that the mood out there is ripe, but that’s because people are becoming more aware,” Menton said. “They saw where it was getting them and now they’re waking up.”


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