debt, Denver, TABOR, Taxes

Unlimited taxing the real prize in Denver bond issues 2A – 2G

Dense legalese, confusing, and misleading. That’s my concise summary of Denver’s ballot questions 2A – 2G.

Here’s what they want you to believe, what a brief look at the ballot questions might reveal:

  1. They won’t raise your taxes.
  2. They will build things if you give them permission.

Here’s the reality: First, they don’t need your permission to build these things. That’s not what they are asking. They already have the authority.

Second, there will be a tax increase. Before promising to build things, they tell you they won’t raise the tax rate on bond service. After getting voters excited about free projects, then they tell you about the tax increase. Taxes will go up by $70 million the first year, and add that amount again every year after. That’s a big tax increase.

Now, we could talk about these projects. There is a slew of them. We could find good ones, necessary ones, and maybe not-so-good ones. But the city already has the authority to do them. That’s not the issue. That’s not what’s important.

We could ask whether a city with a $1.4 billion dollar budget and $1.5 billion in debt should raise nearly a billion dollars in new debt. That might be important, but that’s not what is most important.

We could talk about a city, flush with cash, increasing its payroll by 25% in just six years, spending tens of millions of dollars a year to keep reserves from growing too large, and if they could do this without raising taxes. That’s also not what is most important.

We could talk about how higher property taxes increases the cost of owning a home. Landlords pass those increases on to renters, and skyrocketing rents get a turbo-boost. More people will lose their homes. That’s very important, but it’s not what is most important.

What’s most important is that if any one of these ballot questions passes, your right as a Denver resident to have a say in how much of your money the government can take will be gone. The dense legalese in each of the seven questions on your ballot ends in Denver gaining the authority to “…collect, retain and spend all such property taxes…and other legally available funds…”

The politicians and bureaucrats will tell you that it doesn’t mean they can raise taxes at will. But here’s the problem – they already have the power, they just don’t have the authority. Challenging that power requires a successful lawsuit, and the Colorado judiciary regularly sides with government and grants the authority.

Denver could have been transparent and honest with the wording of these ballot questions. Despite record-breaking revenues, year after year, they failed to properly prioritize and blew through your money. Now, this is their opportunity to never have to ask you again for a tax increase, and it’s disguised as seven bond issues and projects.

If you believe government must be limited, vote no on each of these ballot questions.

Brian Vande Krol is a director of the TABOR Foundation, and of the Colorado Republican Business Coalition, although he is writing on his own behalf.

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