Craig: Don’t go overboard cutting taxes
Who likes paying taxes? Nobody, of course. For most of us, the 15th of April is as dreaded an occasion as the 15th of March was for Caesar. Still, as the old adage goes, the only thing more inevitable than taxes is death. That is, unless the proponents of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 have their way.
Come November, Colorado voters will decide the fate of three ballot initiatives that seek to limit taxes. Amendment 60 would invalidate the will of local voters by overturning or prohibiting any voter-approved TABOR exemptions. Amendment 61 would seriously hamstring the state government by prohibiting the state from contracting debt of any kind. Finally, Proposition 101 would deal a catastrophic blow to state revenues by lowering vehicle registration fees to $1 for used cars and $2 for new cars, eliminating telecommunication taxes, and lowering the state income tax from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent next year and eventually down to 3.5 percent by 2020. Now your initial, and quite justifiable, reaction may be (envision Homer Simpson), “Woohoo! Lower taxes! I like lower taxes!” but it is imperative that we consider the full ramifications of these tax reductions before casting our fateful vote.
Budget gurus on both sides of the political aisle agree this would lower state coffers by $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion dollars annually. This would be on top of the $2.5 billion dollars in cuts implemented in this year’s budgets. Given that the Colorado Legislature recently passed an $18.2 billion budget for this fiscal year, this represents a further 6 to 7 percent decrease to the state’s general fund. At some point, it becomes evident that the government’s ability to provide essential services for our communities (roads, libraries, schools, etc.) will be seriously threatened.
Take schools, for example. Already facing a 6 percetn reduction in funding, schools throughout the state have been laying off teachers, dumping sports programs, and increasing fees for extracurricular activities. These budget cuts have an effect. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes, the single most important factor in students’ learning, according to most educational research. Fewer sports and extracurricular activities increases the likelihood that our children will limit their involvement in the community and instead turn to less constructive, often more dangerous, pursuits.
Anyone who has been involved in the difficult decision-making facing our public schools in Summit County knows that these cuts have taken a heavy toll on our students and community in general. In support of the legislation, Marty Neilson, president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, recently suggested, “These schools need to perform a bit better and do it on the funds they have.” Well, thank you Marie Antoinette, but there simply isn’t enough cake to go around. What will happen next when our schools are asked to cut even further?
What too will happen to CDOT’s already weakened budget for maintaining our roads? When the library is once again forced to slash hours and materials? When the fire department is short staff and equipment? When our local governments are prevented from using customary financing techniques for developing community resources such as recreation centers? Or reinvigorating areas such as Frisco’s Main Street or Dillon’s marina?
I recognize nobody wants to pay taxes for their vehicles, phones, or anything else for that matter, but we need to remember that these taxes provide many elements that make our lives better, and in some cases, outright protect them. No one wants to live in a world of illiterate teenagers who have no rec center, library, or sporting event to go to, so they drive out on poorly maintained, icy roads at high speeds because there aren’t enough police officers to slow them down. So just remember that when you vote in November.
Steven is a Silverthorne resident, husband and father of two, educator, and vice-president of the Summit County Library Board
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