Amendment 21 taxes services


Two proposed amendments will come under scrutiny in Craig on Thursday.

Amendment 21, proposed by Doug Bruce, is essentially a progressive tax cut that reduces several taxes in $25 yearly increments. The cuts will affect income, utility, motor vehicle and property taxes.

A "brown bag" meeting will take place Thursday from noon to 2:30 at the Moffat County Fair Grounds. Local realtors and the Colorado Association of Realtors Governmental Affairs director will attend to answer citizens' questions.

While any tax cut is normally appealing to taxpayers, local businesses and government officials are concerned about the potential effects of this amendment.

"If it passes, it's devastating," said Carl Chapman a city councilor in Craig. "It'll wipe out fire districts and everything," he added.

The primary concern over the proposed cuts is that they will seriously reduce revenue local government agencies and cause a reduction of services.

Officials are also worried that the appeal of lower taxes will give the amendment momentum for the November ballot.

"If you throw candy at a kid, he's going to grab it," Chapman said. "But they don't think about the consequences."

"It's really a lose/lose situation for the people," Chapman added. "It will result in lost services."

One of the flaws business owners and local officials see with the bill is that, while Bruce says the state will replace the funds, that is not stated in the amendment, and the state cannot reasonable replace the funds without raising state taxes.

That could mean not only increased state taxes, but increased state control of local initiatives, according to Chapman.

"I'd rather see the taxes collected locally where the funds are actually spent," Chapman said. He believes it is important to maintain the relationship between local taxpayers and the actual spending of their taxes.

Chapman also believes risking a reduction in services is a step in the wrong direction.

"I remember when they only used to plow the main roads in Craig Yampa and Victory," he said. "People used to have to chain up to get downtown."

Bruce Nelson, finance director for the City of Craig, agrees with Chapman that local citizens should have more control over where their tax dollars are spent.

"Local taxpayers can reach out and ring the government's neck," Nelson said. "They can also always start an initiative to increase or decrease taxes or spending, and that gives them more control over where their money goes," he added.

A coalition of state businesses and other entities has formed to battle the amendment.

So far, 22 organizations have joined the coalition including the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado State Fire Chief's Association, the Colorado Water Alliance and the Colorado Parent Teacher Association.

Some of their stated reasons to oppose the amendment are:

The reliability of fire, water, healthcare and other services provided by special districts would decline.

Amendment twenty-one's wording is so confusing and complicated that 180 different versions were proposed and rejected.

Amendment 21 will eliminate one-third of funding for road and highway improvements that voters approved last year in the TRANS election.

The coalition also believes the tax cut will actually create a higher tax liability for businesses, and that the tax cut will not be equitable for everyone. The coalition contends that areas with lower property values will see a decline in services more rapidly than larger, wealthier areas.

While Amendment 21 will be the focal point for Thursday's meeting, some discussion of Amendment 24 will also be allowed.

Amendment 24 essentially amends Colorado's constitution with more than 2000 words aimed limiting the ability of local governments and citizens to manage growth, according to Coloradans for Responsible Reform.

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