Opponents say budget fix could cost $31 billion over 25 years
DENVER – Opponents of a measure on the November ballot asking voters to give up $3.7 billion over the next five years to fix the state budget on Tuesday accused sponsors of hiding the real cost, which they said could add up to $31 billion over the next 25 years.Paul Prentice, a consultant and former agricultural economist from Colorado Springs, said Referendum C is a permanent tax increase that would cost $31 billion over 25 years, based on figures used by the state to calculate the five-year cost.”The proponents have been very good at labeling this as a five-year time out, without even mentioning what happens after five years,” said Jon Caldara, head of the anti-referendum group, Vote No, It’s Your Dough, and who heads a conservative, Golden-based think tank.Prentice said he ran the calculations on his own after wondering what the true cost would be.”I have children and grandchildren. What does that mean to my family?” he said.Supporters of the measure challenged Prentice’s figures, saying it’s difficult to predict what will happen economically in five years, much less over 25 years.”He’s an agricultural economist. He’s probably qualified to counsel Jon Caldara on manure production, which is what Jon Caldara specializes in,” said Dan Hopkins, spokesman for GOP Gov. Bill Owens, who supports the budget fix.Lawmakers agreed to put two measures on the November ballot asking voters to give up the refunds over the next five years to help the state cover $2 billion in revenue shortfalls after the economy slumped in 2001.Referendum C would temporarily relax the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment that limits state revenue and spending. Anything above TABOR’s limits is considered surplus and must be refunded to taxpayers.Referendum D would allow the state to borrow up to $2.1 billion for roads, school maintenance, pensions and other projects if C is approved.Owens’ budget analyst, Henry Sobanet, said over the next 30 years, Coloradans can expect to earn over $18 trillion in personal income, and triple their home equity. He also questioned the analysis done by Prentice.”We should expect more from our research economists than such a stunningly simplistic view of the budget and the economy. Any responsible analysis would also show that the value of the tax cuts in 1999 and 2000 and reasonable expected future TABOR refunds absolutely dwarf the foregone refunds under C and D,” Sobanet said.
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