The ballot language for Question 2A begins with: “without imposing any new tax or increasing the rate of any existing tax.” Sounds pretty harmless, but it’s actually deceptive. Let’s interpret it.
Colorado Springs city government over-collected $1,900,000 of your tax money, and now, they want to pocket it. Governments in other other states that collect too much money don’t have to give it back to the taxpayer. Fortunately, Colorado has the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which protects the taxpayer when too much is collected in taxes, requiring the government to refund over-collected money to the rightful owners —the taxpaying citizens. The only way the government can keep the overage, is if the people give permission through a ballot initiative like 2A.
Politicians want us to feel sympathetic about declining government revenues amid the mandated shutdowns. But it’s a difficult sentiment for many to muster up. Citizens were laid-off, many jobs won’t return, and some businesses may never recover. When less money comes into households and businesses, we adjust those budgets. Has Colorado Springs government made adjustments? Mayor Suthers reports he implemented a hiring freeze. He’s been vague about spending cuts, though. Maybe it’s because unnecessary city projects continue to receive funding. Bike lane expansion projects move forward in spite of the public’s objections. All of the downtown parking meters are being replaced for $2,000,000. Over 300-acres of open-space land near the Cedar Heights neighborhood was purchased for an undisclosed price. Self-cleaning bathrooms were purchased for some city parks at a price of $300,000. Yes, self-cleaning bathrooms! Are these projects, “needs” or “wants?” In difficult times, families and private businesses are able to distinguish between needs and wants. Why shouldn’t the government?
More money than ever is pouring into Colorado Springs’ coffers. As of September 1, your online Amazon purchases now include local city sales taxes. Charae McDaniel, Colorado Springs Chief Financial Officer, expects those taxes to bring in $5,500,000 for 2021. The City will also collect online purchase sales taxes for the remaining 4 months of 2020 —an estimated $2,000,000 windfall into the 2020 budget. Downtown parking rates were recently increased and hours were extended. The licensing fees for dogs and cats increased. City Council even proposed a tax on all plastic shopping bags. Thankfully, it didn’t pass. Colorado Springs continues to figure out ways to pick your pockets.
Finally, let’s not forget that El Paso County is giving the Colorado Springs more than $37 million in CARES Act funding, meant for COVID relief. Your federal taxpayer dollars are paying for the CARES Act. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the funds come with spending rules. The guidelines say funds are only to be used to cover expenses incurred due to the public health emergency. Even with the spending rules, expecting the CARES Act funds to be used as a slush fund for multiple city projects isn’t a stretch. Just this past week, El Paso County government approved CARES Act funds for graffiti clean-up at the Paint Mines near Calhan. Graffiti has nothing to do with COVID-19. If the El Paso County government is using the funds for non-COVID-19 related projects, might Colorado Springs government follow suit with their own non-COVID-19 related projects?
It’s a safe assumption.
Should the City of Colorado Springs keep the money they received from over-taxing us?
They are asking to keep $1.9 million. The new online shopping taxes will bring in nearly $2 million this year, and over $5 million next year.
The City of Colorado Springs lacks spending discipline between buying land, parking meters and self-cleaning bathrooms.
It’s your money and you aren’t their ATM. Vote “No” on 2A.
Rebecca Marshall is a Colorado Springs resident and co-founder of SpringsTaxpayers.com.