A ballot measure that would allow Mesa County to accept state grants as a revenue stream outside strict governmental growth limits could open potential funding sources for local projects, ranging from a psychiatric hospital facility to a new space for a nonprofit that services developmentally disabled adults, advocates said at a Tuesday press conference.
Leaders of Mind Springs Health, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations called the event Tuesday morning, the day after the Mesa County Commission voted to place Issue 1A on the November ballot.
The ballot issue involves Mesa County's relationship with the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which limits governmental income, including grants, unless an exception is made. Mesa County voters in November will decide whether the county can permanently make that exception for state grants, which are often applied for by nonprofits using the county government as a pass-through agency.
The still-under-construction Mind Springs Health psychiatric hospital project became a case study on the legal tangle last year when the county decided not to apply for a $5 million grant that could have made a major dent in the group's fundraising goals in anticipation of going over TABOR limits.
"Had we been able to partner with the county as well as other communities in being able to secure some TABOR funds, that would have really put us over the top (of fundraising efforts)," said Mind Springs President and CEO Sharon Raggio at the event outside the facility.
HopeWest President and CEO Christy Whitney said she hopes voters will agree.
"There's a lot of state money available to make some amazing things happen in Mesa County, but we have just fundamentally not been able to access it because of the really outdated view of the TABOR law," Whitney said.
Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said both her organization and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership are behind the measure, in part because they believe that local nonprofits provide important services that serve the workforce, that the ballot measure is in "the spirit"of TABOR, and that state grants are partially funded by severance taxes that local businesses pay.
"It's only right that those dollars can come back and help the nonprofits that are doing the good work," Schwenke said.