2021 Election, Elections, TABOR

Fee-funded water enterprise will now go to voters if passed by legislature

DENVER — A new enterprise fund proposed by Republican Sen. Don Coram will go to the voters if it makes it way out of the state legislature.

The bill, that would provide financing to water providers for myriad things, lacked support by some who would otherwise embrace an idea for more revenue to fund water storage in Colorado.

The biggest issue with Senate Bill 21-034, brought by the southwestern Colorado senator, was it proposes a new enterprise fund, funded by a new fee on water that detractors saw as being in conflict with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) if it did not go to the public for a vote.

TABOR is amendment to the Colorado Constitution that, among other things, requires voter approval for new or increased taxes, as well as limiting growth of a portion of the state’s budget to a formula of population growth plus inflation.

Complete Colorado was contacted by Sage Naumann, spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus, on Thursday to clarify that since the original publication, the bill has been amended to send the new fee to voters as a referendum  in 2022.

Coram did not return a request for comment from Complete Colorado when it ran the initial story.

According to the summary of the bill it would: “Provide, and a water provider may use, the financing only: In connection with the provision of raw water, drinking water, or wastewater treatment; and for feasibility studies, consulting, planning, permitting, and construction of infrastructure and water conservation projects and related recreational, hydroelectric, and flood control facilities, including necessary enlargement and rehabilitation of facilities but excluding maintenance and operation of facilities.”

It would be funded by a 25-cent surcharge on drinking water usage per 1,000 gallons over the first 4,000 used each month.

At that time, SB 034 also did not have a fiscal note attached to it, however, a fiscal note was attached on March 1 that showed the fund would raise about $37 million in its first year of operation in 2023-24, if voters approved it in 2022 election.

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