Legislators should oppose budget-strangling initiatives

Our state legislators, Sen. Josh Penry and Reps. Laura Bradford and Steve King, should distance themselves from the three petitions currently circulating for signatures. Designed to defund state government to the point it could not function to meet even the most basic public needs, Initiatives 10, 12 and 21 “would be devastating to the state,” Sen. Abel Tapia, long-time member of the legislative Joint Budget Committee, told The Pueblo Chieftain. “It’s really going to shut down government.”

ColoradoPols was even more direct. “It’s very simple,” the Internet political site wrote, “pass these initiatives and Colorado It’s our opinion that no responsible elected official, Republican or Democrat, would be able to conscionably support anything so inherently destructive.”

Although Douglas Bruce has not acknowledged authorship of these initiatives — and is not listed as their sponsors on the Secretary of State’s Web site, The Denver Post reported that they “share what appear to be common connections to former state Rep. Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, the father of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” In his comments to the Pueblo Chieftain, Abel attributed the petitions to Bruce.

Initiatives 10 and 12 are similar to failed House Bill 1245, sponsored by Bruce during his short tenure in the legislature.

Initiative 10 would reduce the state income tax from its current 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent by 2011 and decrease it further annually over 10 years until it reached 3.5 percent. Vehicle ownership taxes would be reduced to $2 for new vehicles and $1 for older ones. All taxes on cell phones, pagers, landline telephones, cable, satellite and Internet services would be eliminated.

Initiative 12, in a bold move against local control, would “re-Bruce” school districts that have voted to opt out of TABOR limits. It would also repeal a 2007 mill-levy freeze law that kept property taxes from declining. That measure was upheld by the state Supreme Court. If passed, No. 12 it would supersede “conflicting laws, opinions, and constitutional provisions, and shall always be strictly interpreted to favor taxpayers.”

Initiative 21 would prohibit the state from using TABOR-exempt certificates of participation to construct building and other capital construction projects using a lease-back arrangement. This proposed amendment would also reverse a Colorado Supreme Court decision that found this financing method not to be subject to TABOR limitations.

Estimates are that the income-tax reduction alone could cost the state as much as a billion dollars a year. With the state already experiencing the effects of the $320 million in cuts in August and facing an additional $240 million in cuts in the current fiscal year that began July 1, passage of any of these initiatives would be damaging; passing them all would be devastating.

Penry, Bradford and King were vocal in their sympathy for the patients and families affected by the closing of the Grand Junction Regional Center. How do they respond to the pain and suffering that would result from adding another billion dollars to the $560,000 already being cut from the state budget? What would that mean to the services the Regional Center continues to provide? Or to hundreds of other state programs ranging from child welfare to higher education?

It would not compromise the conservative principles of our Republican legislators to recognize that these amendments have no place in the Colorado Constitution. Even tax cuts need to be done in a responsible manner.

Penry, Bradford and King should join Tapia in denouncing these proposed amendments as irresponsible and destructive. Not only would they defund fundamental state services, but adding these further restrictions to the ability of our Legislature to govern weakens our representative form of government.

Supporters of the initiatives must collect 76,047 signatures to qualify them for the ballot. Our local legislative representatives should explain to their constituents the dire financial consequences to the state if the initiatives were to become law, and encourage them not to sign the petitions. Doing nothing will suggest tacit approval of the Bruce agenda to wreck state government.

Penry, who is running for governor, should think very seriously about the prospect of governing if these measures were to be included in the Constitution.


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