DENVER–Voters both state-wide and locally in Colorado’s fourth most populous county gave a strong nod of approval to the fiscal protections in Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Tuesday’s election, soundly defeating two contentious measures that sought to eliminate TABOR revenue restrictions and dramatically increase government spending, and thus the burden on taxpayers.
TABOR is a constitutional amendment passed in 1992 that, among other things, limits the annual growth of a portion of the state budget to a formula of population growth plus inflation. The state is required to refund overcollected revenue back to taxpayers, or get voter consent to keep it temporarily.
Proposition CC was soundly defeated by roughly 56 to 44 percent, despite large amounts of money rolling from out of state interests in support of the measure. Had it passed, Prop CC would have permanently eliminated what’s left of the TABOR spending limit, allowing the state to keep in perpetuity all overcollected revenues that would otherwise have been refunded back to taxpayers. Prop CC was referred to voters by the Democrat-controlled Colorado legislature earlier this year as a statutory change, meaning it needed 50 percent plus one of the vote to pass.
“This is the definition of a team win. We were up against misleading ballot language and millions of dollars of out-of-state money pouring in against us, but thankfully our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is preserved,” said Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, one of the coalition of pro-taxpayer organizations making up the No on CC effort. “Voters clearly pushed back against the overreach coming from the legislature and Governor last session. Coloradans want TABOR, and we want the legislature to prioritize the massive budget they already have.”
In Jefferson County, a local effort to eliminate TABOR revenue limits failed as Issue 1A was also handily defeated.
Issue 1A sought to lift TABOR revenue restrictions on county property taxes for seven years, as well as permanently eliminate limits on all the county’s non-property tax revenues. The measure was unanimously referred to voters by Jefferson County Commissioners.
Proponents used alarmist campaign tactics by claiming that without an end to the refund of overcollected taxes in the county, the sheriff’s budget would be cut and portions of the jail emptied and shut down. But there was no guarantee that 1A money would go towards propping up public safety as the ballot language allowed for new revenues to be broadly spent on, among other things, “providing services traditionally offered by Jefferson County and other Colorado County governments and other statutorily required services.”
“Jeffco voters caught on to the deceptive ballot wording and the proponents’ scam to taint the TABOR Ballot Issue Guide,” said Natalie Menten, coordinator for the volunteer effort against 1A. Menten is referring to an incident involving a member of the Yes on 1A campaign deceptively submitting a nonsensical “against” statement about the measure to the ballot guide-book mailed out to voters.
“We heard from many voters that were very disturbed by the misrepresentation using ballot language like ‘Without increasing tax rates…’ when in fact 1A was an 18% county property tax hike,” Menten told Complete Colorado.
According to an analysis by the Centennial Institute, a think tank attached to Colorado Christian University, Issue 1A represented a roughly $350 million property tax increase over ten years.
Jefferson County voters obviously had no appetite for such a large blank check to the county government, trouncing the measure 55 to 45 percent.