Craig forum focuses on ballot measures

At the start of a Thursday night ballot forum, Craig Chamber of Commerce Director Christina Oxley said forum organizers searched for advocates of what they called “The Ugly Three” — Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 — to speak to the crowd.

But, she said they could not find any.

“I think that is really telling right there that even members of the tea party (and) some big anti-tax campaigns say that as much as they favor less government and lower taxes, these are not the solutions,” she said.

Oxley’s words set the tone for the rest of the public forum, which addressed the three measures that will appear before state voters in November. About 15 local residents attended the forum, which took place at Craig City Hall.

The forum included speeches from Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown, Craig City Manager Jim Ferree and Moffat County School District Financial Director Mark Rydberg.

According to the Bell Policy Center, Amendment 60 amends the state constitution to cut property taxes for schools in half by 2020; repeal all elections that allowed local governments to retain property tax revenues above the Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits; require future retention votes to expire after four years; require future votes to increase property taxes to expire after 10 years; require the state to backfill reduced property tax revenues; require public enterprises and authorities to pay property taxes; require local governments to cut property taxes to offset these new revenues; and re-set local TABOR limits to lower levels.

Bell reports that proponents of the measure say property taxes are unfair because they are based on property value rather than ability to pay. Proponents say the measure would reduce that burden, helping homeowners and renters, and that school districts would not suffer because the state will backfill lost revenues.

Amendment 61 amends the state constitution to ban all borrowing by the state; lower caps on local borrowing by 60 percent or more; limit local borrowing to 10 years; require voter approval of borrowing; and require taxes to be cut when borrowing is paid off, according to Bell.

Bell reports that proponents of Amendment 61 say the measure protects citizens from overspending by irresponsible politicians and the government should live within its means.

Proposition 101 changes state law to reduce income taxes from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent over time; cut taxes and fees on vehicles; exempt leased and rented vehicles from sales tax; exempt the first $10,000 of vehicle purchases from sales tax; eliminate fees on telecommunications except 911; set a lower state TABOR revenue limit; and require voter approval of fees on vehicles and telecommunications, according to Bell.

Bell reports proponents of Proposition 101 say taxes disproportionately affect low-income people. The measure would reduce unfairness by lowering taxes on basic needs, provide taxpayers relief and create jobs by people spending tax savings.

Brown started his presentation by saying the three ballot measures “do nothing to make government either more transparent, more efficient or more accountable.”

“The proponents are selling this package on the idea that it will make government more efficient,” he said. “What they mean is it is going to make government drastically smaller. Smaller is not necessarily more efficient.”

The three measures, Brown said, will “slash” funding to local and state governments, which will make them less efficient and negatively affect services.

Essentially, government would become more “top-heavy” on management salary and would be limited on the amount of services they could provide, Brown said.

Moreover, the three measures will put Colorado in a “constitutionally mandated recession,” he said.

Brown said estimates indicate losses of 73,000 jobs from mainly the construction, transportation and health care sectors and 8,000 teaching jobs across the state if the measures are passed.

The measures could also hurt small businesses by forcing them to pay higher fees and to compete “in a climate that disadvantages Colorado with other states.”

Brown also said the measures would push local control to the state and federal government.

“That is the upshot of this, that we are going to be more dependent on funding further away (and) we will lose local control,” he said. “So the advocates of local control, who are pushing these measures, are going to get the exact opposite of what they want.”

Ferree said Proposition 101 would have a “significant impact” on the city’s general fund.

He said if the measure is passed, it could mean a 40- to 45-percent reduction in four years to the city’s general fund, which funds the Craig Police Department, parks and recreation and road and bridge departments, among others.

“We can’t expect any help from the state government because they will be broke as well,” he said.

Rydberg said the three measures “send a belief” that school districts will not be hurt because funding taken from the local level will be back-filled at the state level.

“That is not what we have seen and I don’t believe that is what we are going to see,” he said.

Rydberg said the long-term funding cuts the school district could see as a result of the three measures passing are unknown, but they could be heavily damaging.

“The state won’t have the money to back-fill like they are supposed to, unless we are going to have a state with no higher-ed, no human services (and) no corrections,” he said. “Unless we are going to have a state like that, which we are not, we are going to have less and less money for K-12.”

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