Opinion | Mike Tabb: It is time for state and local budget discipline
Summit County Republicans chairman
The high cost of living in Summit County is a first-hand experience for all of us.
The supporters of the ballot measures this November to raise your taxes play on the feel-good aspect of increased government spending and ignore the very real contribution of state and local taxes to your cost of living.
With few exceptions, our county, school district and state budgets increase every year. There is only so much tax paying capacity for our taxpayers, and it is time to hold our politicians at all levels accountable for a lack of discipline in prioritizing program spending.
Proposition CC: Vote no
Colorado voters passed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment to the state constitution in 1992 to provide protections against unchecked government spending that leads to massive debt like we see at the federal level and in some states like California.
TABOR has two main provisions. First, it limits spending increases to population growth plus inflation. Second, any revenue collected above this increase must be returned to taxpayers as a refund.
Proposition CC would permanently eliminate the refund provision. Supporters of Proposition CC claim it is necessary to fund unmet needs for K-12 education, higher education and transportation.
We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending priority problem. In the past 10 years, the state budget has increased from $19.9 billion to $32.5 billion for fiscal year 2020.
We have been down this road before. Referendum C, passed in 2005, specified a five-year suspension of the refund provision. While the excess revenue from Referendum C was intended for public education, health care and transportation, legislative manipulation reduced general fund appropriations to these areas to effectively divert the increased revenue to other programs.
Do not buy into the propaganda that this is not a new tax. If the state keeps more of your money, your taxes will go up. In an Oct. 3 editorial, The Denver Post labeled Proposition CC fatally flawed and recommended a no vote.
Proposition DD: Vote no
Supporters of DD claim the money raised from the fees/taxes imposed on casinos that offer sports betting will be used to protect our water rights. The Colorado Water Plan adopted in 2015 is long on lofty goals and empty of specific plans.
Estimates for implementation range from $20 billion to $40 billion. The highest estimates of tax revenue from this measure do nothing to address the water plan in any meaningful way, and its vague language on how the money would be spent leaves open the opportunity for legislative manipulation of the general fund appropriations.
Its supporters have tied funding water projects to make one feel good about expanding legalized gambling in Colorado.
Measure 4A: Vote no
Measure 4A asks voters to allow Summit School District to reallocate money that originally was earmarked for full-day kindergarten. A no vote is not against the intent of the highlighted issues in the measure but rather how they are funded.
First, it is misleading to imply it is not a new tax and that taxes will not go up. If it is not a new tax, why was a TABOR notice of election required? Second, if assessed values rise, your taxes must increase. Third, unlike the original 2007 measure, this measure does not dedicate the increased revenue to a specific purpose. It only states an intended purpose and leaves open its use based on the discretion of the school board. Since this measure has an open-ended time frame, there is little doubt the money will be moved around to other purposes.
Lastly, the school board has not been held accountable in setting spending priorities. The Coordinated Election Notice shows district fiscal year spending has increased nearly $11 million since the 2015-16 school year, a 24% increase. Fiscal year spending for 2020-21 will increase an additional $4.3 million without the proposed tax increase. Citing total enrollment figures published by the Colorado Department of Education, the district’s total enrollment has increased from 3,346 students in 2015-16 to 3,438 in 2018-19, an increase of 92 students. It is time for the school district to learn to live within its existing revenue streams.
Measures 1A and 1B: Vote no
The county’s budget has grown from $52.2 million in 2015 to a projected $71.9 million in 2020 without the estimated revenue from these two measures; that is a 37.7% increase. These measures (nicotine tax and open space funding) are wrapped in language that emphasize good intentions to justify additional taxes. It is time to ask the county to show discipline in setting program priorities with existing revenue streams. The added intent of the nicotine tax to control/dictate individual behavior is a government overreach.
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