Colorado can do better by its residents, Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff said Saturday in Craig.
Romanoff discussed Referenda C and D with about 30 people at Craig City Park. The speaker is traveling the state touting C and D before the November election.
He said the referenda are the most important issues facing the state.
"This is the most important debate the state will have in the next decade," Romanoff said.
Referendum C would allow lawmakers to keep an estimated $3.7 billion in tax revenues during the next five years that otherwise would be returned to taxpayers under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Referendum D is a bond for capital investments.
The bond would be paid off in part with 10 percent of the money from Referendum C. If Referendum C fails, so does D, but C can pass without D.
The recession that hit the state after Sept. 11 and the wildfires of 2002, combined with revenue restrictions imposed on legislators by TABOR, left the state with a fiscal crisis, Romanoff said.
"C and D will help us fix that problem," Romanoff said.
He said the referenda are not a tax increase, though opponents believe they are.
"We can (accomplish our goals) just with the money we are already collecting," Romanoff said.
The TABOR refunds that voters would forego if the referenda pass would cost about $100 per taxpayer over the next five years, Romanoff said.
The referenda will help the state attract employers and high-paying jobs by improving higher education, he said.
Romanoff said he has talked to business leaders who say they will move their operations to other states where higher education is a priority.
"Northwest Colorado and the rest of our state lose when we don't keep up with those other states," Romanoff said.
About 30 percent of Referendum C's $3.7 billion would go to community colleges and state colleges. Referendum D will pump $50 million into higher education for capital projects.
Referenda C and D also will put money into K-12 education, health care and roads.
Romanoff said the referenda are particularly important for roads in rural Colorado. Metro Denver already has major transportation projects, Romanoff said, but rural areas need the projects from C and D.
If the referenda pass, roughly $5 million will go toward two sections of highway in Moffat County -- widening Colorado Highway 13 near the Wyoming border and resurfacing U.S. Highway 40 near Maybell.
Craig City Councilman Terry Carwile invited Romanoff to speak in Craig. Carwile, who also supports C and D, said afterward he was happy with Romanoff's comments.