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GUEST COLUMN: Ballot Question 1B: A dishonest tax increase

By: Jeff Crank
October 20, 2014 Updated: October 20, 2014 at 4:05 am
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El Paso County Ballot question 1B is nothing more than a dishonest attempt to fool voters. Its shameful deception rises to the level of the misleading term-limits language of a few years ago. If you remember the term limits language that implied that a "yes" vote "limited" terms when it actually extended them, then question 1B this year might ring a bell. 1B imposes a tax of $92.40 per year on the average household in El Paso County for the next 20 years and beyond. That is a minimum tax increase of $1,848 per property and likely much higher. However, you wouldn't know these facts just by reading the ballot language.

Pretty harsh to say it is deceptive, but the facts leave little doubt. First, the language calls the tax a "fee." Why? If they called it a tax, the Colorado Constitution would require the ballot language to start out by saying "shall taxes be increased by $39,275,650 for 2016 and each year after for 20 years." By cleverly calling the tax a fee, they can now start the language with "Are you in favor of funding emergency needs caused by flooding." It was worded this way to enhance the ability to get it passed but it is nothing more than a way to trick you into believing that the money coming out of your pocket is a fee and not a tax. After all, it is on your property tax bill.

The sleight of hand continues. Rather than being honest about how much you're going to pay each year, they broke down the amount per month. They could have said that it would cost the average homeowner $1,848 over the next 20 years. Instead, they broke down the amount by month - to $7.70 per month. Why not break it down to the day, hour or second? By the way, if you do the math, it is just over a penny per hour tax increase.

Question 1B also creates a government bureaucracy and then exempts it from the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights provisions of the Colorado Constitution.

In other words, it creates a bureaucracy and then allows that bureaucracy to vote to extend the tax (that they call a fee) without going to the citizens for a vote of the people.

As Mayor Steve Bach, who strongly opposes 1B, stated, "the new $92.40 stormwater fee is about the same amount the average residential property owner now pays for all city services combined." That's right, you'll pay as much property tax for stormwater as you do for police, fire, snow removal, street repair, parks, arts, etc. Imagine this new unaccountable bureaucracy getting as much property tax as the city of Colorado Springs, never having to face an election and having the ability to increase 
the tax at their whim and without voter approval.

If this tax increase of $785 million over 20 years weren't offensive enough, the audacity of the language should convince any citizen to vote "no." The drafters of the language trying to pull the wool over voters eyes by calling a tax a "fee"; reducing the yearly tax amount to make it appear smaller; and thumbing their nose at the voters by taking away the right to vote on tax increases make this as deceptive and misleading as any ballot language we've ever seen.

Our stormwater problem is real and it should be addressed, but Question 1B is not the answer. I hope you'll join Mayor Bach, myself and many other community leaders in voting "no."

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Jeff Crank is a talk show host on AM 740 KVOR and the president of Aegis Strategic, LLC.

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