Looking at solutions
Colorado’s conflicting and restricting constitutional budget amendments, Gallagher, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and Amendment 23, are the subject of a new report looking at solutions.
Colorado 100 was a 2003 project sponsored by the Bighorn Center for Public Policy, Colorado Forum, the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, and Club 20, the Western Slope interest group.
The final report has been published. The project brought together community leaders across the state to address fiscal challenges that have been created in Colorado through three past voter initiatives.
These initiatives occurred in three different decades and, although one can identify real merit in each of these actions, the interaction of the three together in an economic downturn was not considered at the time.
The Gallagher Amendment (1982) was the beginning of property tax relief for homeowners by limiting their share of the total statewide tax burden. The total share of property tax from homeowners is set while commercial property taxes rise dramatically because the state is seeing much more residential growth than commercial growth. The more residential property there is to tax, the smaller proportion of the state total each homeowner pays.
TABOR (1992) was voted in to control the growth of government. That would be achieved by capping state and local tax revenues and returning any surplus generated to taxpayers.
An increase in tax levels requires a vote of the people. Amendment 23 (2000) was put in place by the voters mandating that funding for public education will increase annually at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent.
The intent was to ensure that funding for public education remains a priority in state and local budgets.
During times of economic growth, there is no readily apparent reason that these initiatives can’t coexist.
However, we all know that we’ve not seen economic growth since 1999 and the challenges presented, both statewide and locally, are incredibly difficult. There is no consensus on the best way to address these challenges and several proposed alternatives were identified in each of the local meetings held during this project.
I think we all agree that we would rather not see a repeat of what we’ve experienced fiscally over the past four years. However, economic cycles are just that – cyclical. There is a strong likelihood that we will experience this again and we have an opportunity to take what we’ve learned from this last downturn and make some adjustments to mitigate the unintended consequences from past actions.
There were a number of proposals for change generated during the Colorado 100 project.
Each of these proposals is summarized in the Bighorn Center’s report along with results from votes by participants on each of the proposals.
Each proposal contains recommended changes to at least one of the previously mentioned voter initiatives and most are recommendations for changes to all three.
The report is available on-line at http://www.colorado100.org and I encourage you to read it. I guarantee our legislators will be doing just that.
Jack Taylor is executive director of the Summit County Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (970) 668-2051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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