Most businesses support gov’t spending plan
DENVER – One of the things Dick Robinson has noticed lately is that his trucks filled with milk, cream and other dairy products are taking a beating as they navigate Colorado’s pothole-plagued roads.The co-chief executive officer of Denver-based Robinson Dairy blames higher vehicle maintenance costs on state government checkbook troubles that occurred because of TABOR – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limiting government’s ability to tax and spend.”We’re having a very difficult time with the highway systems and roads,” Robinson said. “Not only trucks, cars. I hit one (pothole) the other day that I still feel.”Although Robinson supports the basic tenet of TABOR, he has joined a group of mostly mid-sized and large business leaders backing two measures on the Nov. 1 ballot. Referenda C and D will ask voters to allow government to keep millions of dollars in TABOR refunds and to borrow money to use for state needs – including road improvements.Without the plan, Robinson said, he worries about economic development.”We’re going to see this economy in the state of Colorado get better and not be able to do things we have to,” he said.Many small-business owners disagree. If the measures pass, they say lawmakers need to set a specific amount on the money they want to keep.”What concerns me about that is when there’s that kind of money floating around, they’re going to come up with new programs,” said Walter Curtner, owner of Denver-based Curtner Risk Management Inc.The ballot measures have produced one of the more interesting off-year election campaigns the state has seen in recent years.The issue dates to 1992, when voters approved the constitutional amendment called TABOR, considered one of the strictest in the nation. It limits growth in government spending to 6 percent a year and requires voter approval of any tax hikes.When Colorado’s economy was robust during the 1990s, lawmakers returned millions in refunds to taxpayers.When the economy slowed because of the high-tech slump and national recession, the refunds dried up. In the past three years, a lower base level has forced lawmakers to reduce spending by cutting key programs and postponing services.The economy has started to improve but lawmakers are bound by a lower spending base required by TABOR, a phenomenon called the “ratchet-down effect” that essentially limits government spending when times are tough.The ballot measures would lift TABOR’s spending limits for five years to allow the state to keep up to $3.7 billion that otherwise would be returned to voters, and would allow the state to borrow up to $2.1 billion for roads, pensions and school maintenance among other projects.
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