Amy Oliver Cooke, Elections, Proposition CC, TABOR, Taxes, Uncategorized

Cooke: The case against Colorado’s Proposition CC

This November, Colorado voters will decide the fate of a deceptively worded measure — Proposition CC, a blank check for a tax increase drawn on our pocketbooks, with zero accountability, that would permanently cripple our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. It deserves an overwhelming “NO” vote.

For those who aren’t familiar with our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also known as TABOR, it’s simple. TABOR promotes transparent, consensual and good, fair government. Ever since voters approved it in 1992, this constitutional amendment has been an indispensable voter check and balance on state government growth. TABOR provides reasonable limitations on revenue collection (population growth plus inflation) and general government debt.

If government wants to grow, all it has to do is ask voters. Coloradans are lucky to live in a state in which we get to decide on the size and scope of government.

First, there is no budget crisis.

TABOR frustrates some legislators because it keeps them from wildly spending our families’ hard-earned tax dollars without our consent. Nevertheless, legislators do find ways to circumvent TABOR. Even though voters have rejected six statewide tax increases over the last several years, in the past decade our state budget has grown 71% while population is up only 15%.

No wonder the Denver Post agrees we don’t have a budget crisis, and no wonder we Coloradans love our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Polling shows 71% of Coloradans support TABOR. We want to keep some control of our state’s economic destiny, which is one of the strongest in the nation thanks to voters and TABOR.

Second, the ballot language claims that Prop CC will help fund Colorado’s roads and schools without a tax increase. That’s false. When the government keeps more of our money and spends it, it’s a tax increase. Current projections indicate that Proposition CC’s passage would cost taxpayers $1.3 billion in refunds over the next three years alone. For some families, that’s hundreds of dollars. Coloradans have repeatedly rejected statewide tax hikes because we want our government to be more efficient with the $32.5 billion budget it already receives.

Prop CC would cripple TABOR. There’s no sunset. It would take away our TABOR tax refunds forever and would take away our right to vote on TABOR tax refunds — forever. Make no mistake, despite what proponents and the ballot language says, Prop CC is a forever tax increase meant to destroy TABOR.

Finally, Prop CC is also a blank check. State House Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder) admitted in a committee hearing earlier this year that there is no guarantee that Proposition CC’s money will go toward roads and schools in the future. There’s no real accountability. Legislators like Rep. Becker want to gut TABOR, so they can keep our TABOR tax refunds forever and spend our money however they want.

In 2005, Coloradans narrowly approved Referendum C. That money was supposed to fund many of the things that Proposition CC would purportedly fund. But the legislature didn’t abide by the spirit of Ref C because lawmakers didn’t have to. Former State Treasurer Mark Hillman and I wrote “State Budget Scrutiny Reveal Ref C Shuffle” and found that programs NOT identified as beneficiaries of Ref C dollars grew twice as fast as education and health care. Worse still, higher ed got starved in the process. We shouldn’t be fooled again, and neither will Ref C supporter, former senator and University of Colorado President Hank Brown, who has joined the “No on CC” coalition.

No on CC Co-Chair and University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl said, “There are two problems with this proposition. There is no sunset. It’s forever. And they did not put guardrails in to assure where the money is going to go. So, in a year, they can switch it up … There are no guarantees higher ed will get any money out of this.”

Ganahl suggested that the current legislature could fund higher ed if it chose to, but that the majority of lawmakers “don’t understand the value of investing in higher education.”

The legislature doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a prioritization problem. If Colorado’s legislators were truly interested in funding roads and schools without a tax increase, they could fund them now.

Since TABOR passed, the state’s budget has grown 306% and yet, the legislature is unwilling to prioritize what our families need — well-paid teachers and roads. Even though education spending is up 20% since 1990, teacher pay is actually down 20% when adjusted for inflation.

Voters shouldn’t reward bad budgeting. That’s why I’ll be a NO vote on Prop CC.

Amy Oliver Cooke is the executive vice president of the Independence Institute, and part of the No on CC effort.

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