If you read Proposition CC’s ballot language, you’ll be hard pressed to figure out what it’s really asking.
It doesn’t say it’s permanent, it doesn’t mention the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and it doesn’t point out that it’s a tax increase. In fact, it deceptively begins by saying, “Without raising taxes…,” even though state government will be keeping and spending billions of dollars that would otherwise go back to taxpayers.
The ballot language would get laughed out of the title board if a citizen brought it, but since the Legislature gets to play by different rules, here we are. If legislators were being honest, the ballot language would read something like: “Can state government keep your TABOR tax refunds forever?” It’s not hard to guess how an honest ballot question like that would fair with the voters.
Proposition CC would simply be a permanent blank check to the state coffers, with no guarantee that the money will even go to education and transportation in the future.
Even Speaker Kathleen Collins Becker said, “One Legislature can’t bind future legislators...And any change that is statutory, whether voters approve it or not, can always be changed by the Legislature…”
With no sunset on this ballot issue, and no assurances on where the money will go, it’s simply far too much trust to hand over to state politicians.
One thing we do know is that statewide polling clearly shows Coloradans want our roads fixed and higher pay for teachers. Prop CC would do neither.
We can’t bond for roads with TABOR tax refund money that might or might not be there year-to-year. We also can’t increase teacher pay, or hire new teachers, because the measure explicitly precludes it.
Between Ref C funding, increasing car registration fees, and the 2017 Hospital Provider Fee bill, an extra $3 billion a year is supposedly going into our state budget to help fix our roads — but our roads are worse than ever. We’ll know that legislators are taking this issue seriously when they pass a long-term plan with dedicated General Fund money for roads.
As a former teacher, I’m very interested in how we spend education money in this state.
Since 1990, we’ve increased spending on K-12 education by 20%. During that same time, teacher pay has dropped by 20%. We are spending more money on education, but only 54% or education dollars are getting to teachers and classrooms. Until our education system gets administrative costs under control, and more money is put toward teachers, voters are going to be reluctant to raise their taxes.
Our TABOR tax refunds are projected to be $1.7 billion over the next three years.
All of that money should be refunded to taxpayers. Voting No on Proposition CC will help protect our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. And protecting TABOR is about increased opportunity for Coloradans.
We can remain the No. 1 economy in the country, or we can follow states such as Illinois and Connecticut where taxes are up, opportunity is down, and people are leaving.
I believe Colorado can do better.
Michael Fields is Colorado Rising Action’s executive director.