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If it looks too good to be true, is it?

by Larry Patrick

    You aren’t hearing a lot about them right now but soon you will be inundated with TV, radio and newspaper ads promoting the benefits to residents in Colorado for Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 & 61 on this fall’s ballot.

    People may think they have hit the jackpot.  Proposals include no sales tax on the first $10,000 for a car.  Ownership taxes on new cars would just be $2 and $1 for a used car.  Consumers would pay only $10 for registration, license and title fees. That’s what Proposition 101 would do if passed by voters.

    Amendment 60 would cut all current property tax rates in half over a ten-year period.  Amendment 61 would prohibit the state from holding debt of any kind and any project taken on by a city, county or the state of Colorado would have to be paid for within 10 years.

    Those against the measures see a completely different picture.  Your city, town, county, school and state budgets could not provide the services they currently do for residents.

    Action 22 Committee, a group of 22 counties in southeastern Colorado that works to get fair representation from the state for this area, met with business and government officials in Walsenburg last week to show the dramatic negative impact that these 3 ballot initiatives would have.  It would cost local governments in Colorado around 622 million dollars in revenue.  The state would lose 1.7 billion dollars.  The figures are not out for Huerfano County yet, but here is a preview of what it would look like for Pueblo County as put forth by the Bell Policy Center of Denver:

    In 2009, Pueblo County received 4.73 million dollars for schools from the state.  Under Proposition 101, Pueblo County would get just $81,000.  Libraries in Pueblo received $650,000 in 2009 but would only get $11,000 if Proposition 101 passed.  Pueblo County received 3.84 million dollars in 2009 but that would be cut to $65,800 under Proposition 101.

    Huerfano County figures would be much lower but the same percentage of across the board cuts would have negative affects on local schools and governments.  They would impact the ability of all counties, school districts and municipalities from providing essential services such as roads and repair, public safety services and school funding. Property tax revenues also pay for essential services.  If cut in half, residents could see additional cuts in services they often take for granted.

    The City of Walsenburg for instance, is mandated to put in a new wastewater treatment plant at a cost of around 5 million dollars.  They are financing it over a 30-year period.  But under Amendment 61, such a project in the future could only be financed over a 10-year period, raising their payments dramatically.  Most people can’t afford to pay off the mortgage on their house in 10 years to give you an idea what problems local governments would face.

    Many of the cities, counties and state of Colorado are against these measures.  However, they cannot use taxpayer dollars to promote the evils they see in these measures to taxpayers. 

    Lee Merkle of the Department of Local Affairs in Colorado, told the gathering in Walsenburg that speaking as a citizen, “These measures are more than a tax revolt.  It’s taking away people’s right to govern and taking away representative government.”

    Any citizen that has served on local or state governing boards know that tax dollars run the engine for services provided to a community.  For those that feel there is way too much waste in government on all levels, they will find these measures appealing unless it begins hurting them personally. Voters in November, will determine whether Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 & 61 are fantastic measures or too good to be true.