City for Champions means tax relief

The Gazette editorial Updated: December 13, 2013 at 8:24 am • Published: December 12, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Fiscal conservatives who oppose tax relief may be confused. Consider some of the opposition to City for Champions. The proposal seeks a reduction of state-imposed overhead—in the form of rebated taxes—which is likely to inspire private investment for an Olympic museum, a new visitor center at the Air Force Academy, a multiuse downtown stadium and arena, and a sports medicine center at a new branch of the University of Colorado's medical school. Conservatives have long viewed tax relief as a means to ignite economic growth.

Some opponents believe "elite" and "powerful" politicians and developers may force them to pay for projects by simply convincing a panel of state officials to go along with the plan. Consider the concern that follows. It's an email responding to Sunday's package in The Gazette's opinion section about a slate of successful projects, MAPS, that saved Oklahoma City from the brink of financial ruin.

"There is one key difference between MAPS and the proposed City of Champions," the reader explained. "The citizens of Oklahoma City approved the projects and a tax increase to improve public infrastructure. The citizens of Colorado Springs have not been afforded the opportunity to vote on what the city's ruling elite believe is good for the city, nor the potential cost to the residents of the city."

This puts the cart before the horse. Residents have not voted because no one has asked for new taxes or additional debt, or any other form of a "cost" to residents, to finance City for Champions.

If and when proponents want new taxes and/or debt, they would have to sell the idea to voters. Period. In Colorado and Colorado Springs, that's the law. The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) protects the right of the public to approve all new taxes and debt. Just as new taxes or bonds would require a vote, so would suspension of TABOR. The Economic Development Commission, State Legislature, the mayor and City Council combined cannot raise taxes or issue bonds in Colorado Springs without the public's consent.

Yet, emails, social network posts and online thread comments express concern about "elites," "developers" and an "old boy network" pulling a fast one by trying to convince state officials to finance something with taxes that will burden hard-working people who struggle to get by. One explanation for this unfounded fear involves repeated use of "tax increment financing," which is all the commission has been asked to approve. The phrase is bureaucratic gobbledygook that means nothing to most nonpoliticians who are busy paying taxes and providing for families. All they hear is "tax," and understandably so.

Springs residents asking for "tax increment financing" are mostly fiscal conservatives seeking the aforementioned tax relief. They want state officials to cut Colorado Springs a break on 13 percent of the state's portion of prospective sales taxes, which the projects would generate, so the money can stay here instead of going to Denver for redistribution to outside interests.

If the commission agrees to the request, allowing tax relief, more money will stay in Colorado Springs to pay for endeavors that create jobs, attract tourists and grow the economy. Economic growth is the least painful way to pay for needs, such as stormwater infrastructure and roads. It's the only way to create good jobs.

In opposing "tax increment financing," opponents should be honest and clear. Their position favors a stagnant economy that cannot afford to pay for needs.

It favors business as usual, in which proposed economic growth in Colorado Springs would generate more money for state politicians to control.

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