DENVER — A New York City-based organization has doubled down on getting involved in Colorado’s election this year.
More specifically, Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA), which initially sent the “Coloradans for Prosperity aka Yes on Prop CC” campaign committee $100,000 to push a ballot effort to permanently eliminate tax refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), sent another $352,000 to the campaign, according to a Major Contributors Report filed by Yes on CC Monday.
According to the ERNA website, it believes that “every child should receive an adequate and equitable allocation of resources no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or zip code nor whether they are enrolled in a traditional district-run public school or public charter school.”
Dan Ritchie, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Denver told a crowd of mostly Democrat law makers, teachers and students who officially kicked off the campaign last week, that they needed to beware of money from outside of Colorado being spent from the opposition, referring to Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a Washington D.C.-based organization.
According to AFPs website, it advances “policies that will help people improve their lives.” AFP Colorado recently spent nearly $500,000 on a media campaign to oppose Prop CC.
Although both AFP and ERNA have Colorado offices, the difference in the two organizations is their direct ties to the official yes and no on CC groups.
AFP is an independent group making its own decisions on how to target the No on CC message. ERNA is donating directly to the Yes on CC campaign, which will determine how to spend the money.
The additional revenue puts the Yes on CC campaign at slightly more than $2 million in donations, while No on CC has reported only $17,000 in total contributions.
The Yes on CC campaign has also accepted $250,000 in out of state money from the National Education Association, based in Washington D.C.
Proposition CC would permanently allow the state to keep all revenue collected above the current limitations in Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Advocates claim the money would go to K-12 education, higher education and transportation.
However, there are no guarantees, as current lawmakers cannot bind future lawmakers to spending requirements.
Those opposed say the money will end up paying for other pet projects of legislature and point to Referendum C as proof. Referendum C was a “TABOR timeout” that voters passed in 2005, that allowed the state to keep all revenue collected above the TABOR limitations for five years.
Big names — such as former Republican Governor Bill Owens and former Republican U.S. Senator and president of the University of Northern Colorado and University of Colorado Hank Brown— supported Referendum C but are opposed to Proposition CC because lawmakers did not do with Ref C money what they promised then — which was also higher ed, K-12 and transportation.
Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, told Complete Colorado that recent forecasts predicting next year’s revenue collection will not cover the costly bills passed last session is proof Prop CC will be directed elsewhere.
“There is no flexibility in the budget,” Cooke said. “That’s one reason (Democrats) want this money is to pay for those pet projects, and what happens if we have another recession?”
Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, agreed, adding legislative priorities are the issue.
“We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” Saine said. “We had so much extra money this year and last year to put into things like college tuition, roads, bridges, K-12.”
Saine added that although people think they have control over this, they don’t.
“Legislators can do whatever they want,” Saine said. “They can essentially grow government in a way that nobody wants. If you think about what happened with Ref C, they used it for what they said they would the first year and then they dumped it into whatever they want to use it for.”