Steve Martinson: A new view on referendums C and D

To the editor:

Recently there has been a lot of advertising against referendums C and D, and I think some misinformation has been presented. I would like to present an opposing view.

Voters in this state approved a referendum known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which limits government spending and the amount of taxes the state can keep. If the state collects more taxes than TABOR allows, it must be returned to the taxpayers. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, we had a recession, tax revenues fell and cutbacks hit all of our state services. The economy has rebounded; more people have found jobs and moved to Colorado. Tax revenues have come back up. Unfortunately, TABOR limits state spending so even though the recession is over and increased sales taxes have been collected, we are not allowed to use those funds for state services. Under TABOR, we can never catch up to pre-recession funding levels because TABOR limits growth to population and inflation from previous years. It doesn't allow enough adjustment for a growing economy.

In response to the recession, huge cutbacks have already been made. The voters have spoken loud and clear with the passage of Amendment 23 that we should fund K-12 education. Therefore, many of these cuts have gone to higher education and the highway department. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has said roads have been cut 41percent since 2001, and because our universities are not getting full funding from the state, in-state tuition has been raised to make up the shortfall. The University of Colorado's in-state tuition has risen 28 percent this year alone. One recent commercial suggests that a family could use their TABOR tax refund to send a kid to college. Even the highest estimates I have seen would not pay for one semester of tuition, let alone four years of in-state tuition increases.

Before TABOR, Colorado schools were funded at close to $300 above the national average for per-pupil expenditures. In 2005, Colorado has fallen to about $800 below the national average. Colorado is among the top 10 states in per-capita income in the nation (seventh), and fourth in personal tax burden per population. If you consider Colorado's per-capita income, compared to the amount we spend for education, we rank a dismal 47th out of 50 in the nation.

Passage of C and D is critical to the public services of this state. TABOR and its ratchet magnified the effect of the 2001-02 recession, forcing dramatic cuts in education funding, health care, and road and bridge construction. Our state ranks embarrassingly low in prenatal care (48th) and funds for higher education (48th). Passage of C and D will give the state a five-year break from TABOR, allowing critical funding specifically earmarked for education, health care, roads and fire and police pensions.

We cannot continue to underfund education, health care and roads. Good schools and infrastructure are essential for growth and prosperity, which in turn, increases tax revenues. We have not felt the deepest cuts yet, but if C and D do not pass, there will be further cuts to our schools, community colleges, universities and hospitals in Northwest Colorado. We must take care of our most vulnerable residents -- our children, those with disabilities and elderly Coloradoans instead of grabbing a tax credit now, that we will pay dearly for, in the future.

I urge you to get the facts and vote in support of education and health care. Vote for C and D.

Steve Martinson

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