05 July 2005

Referrendums C and D

Largely thanks to the work of Washington Park state representative and State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, TABOR reform will be on the November 2005 ballot, and will have the endorsement of Republican Governor Bill Owens, as well as the Democratic leadership, in the form of Referrendums C and D. Technicalities related to the initative process will keep all other finance related issues off the ballot and there will be no major candidate races in that election either. Since TABOR is doing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to higher education in Colorado, and threatens all other financial initiatives, this was the crowing achievement of the session. But, I wasn't familiar with the details of the plan until they appeared in the July 2005 issue of the Colorado Lawyer, where Michael Valdez has a nice bullet point summary of the issues.

Referendum C:
* Allows state government to keep and spend all revenues collected from existing state taxes for the next five years.
* Sets a new revenue cap at the highest level of state tax revenue reached between now and 2011
* . . . adjusts the limit upward for population growth and inflation from that year on
* Requires extra revenues kept under the new cap to b e spent for the following: health care; public schools and state colleges and universities; and transportation projects
Referrendum D . . . It would do the following:
* Authorize the state to spend up to $2.07 billion in new multi-year bonds to speed up funding statewide for:
1) roads, bridges, and other stategic transportation projects: up to $1.7 billion;
2) pension funds for firefighters and police officers: up to $175 million;
3) crucial repairs and maintenance in public school buidlings, meeting the state's obligation in the settlement of a lawsuit: up to $147 million; and
4) repairs at state university, college and community college buildings: up to $50 million
* . . . cover the bond payments by adding an extra $100 million a year to the new state revenue limit
* Take effect only if Colorado voters also approve Referrendum C

Referrendum C is a no brainer for Democrats (and while it purports to limit what the increased revenue can be spent on, the list includes every big ticket line item in the state budget but the corrections budget). This state does not need a repeat of the Republican's budgets that threw elderly people with no other means of support and frail physical conditions out of nursing homes and eroded that economic driver that is the states high education system.

But, I hadn't realized until now that Referrendum C can pass even if Referrendum D does not. This is good, because Referrendum D is a much closer call. While school repairs and pension funds for law enforcement are a good idea, plowing 85% of the additional money into roads and bridges is too much in my opinion, even if it is understandable as this was the political price that Democrats had to pay to make the plan work. But, this is good politics in November, as Pro-road Republicans have to choose between voting against both and supporting both, improving Referrendum C's chances at the polls greatly.

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