Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
Raising the Bar--to Progress
August 5, 2005
When I was a kid we went from Denver to Glenwood Springs every summer.
We went through Leadville and then a two-lane dirt road through Glenwood Canyon. Today the highway is a shining example of modern engineering.
Who do you thank made the difference, little green men from Mars? No.
We did it, you and I, with our taxes. Our tax structure makes it possible for a state or a nation to function.
And now "taxes" has become a dirty word with many. They are all excited about Referenda C and D in the November election. But whether they pass or not, they will NOT increase your taxes. And there are so many reasons that it is important to approve them.
Amendment C would, for a period of five years, lift the state revenue spending limits that were created by the Tabor Amendment in 1992. It would make money available for such vital state services as health care programs for children and adults, public schools, state colleges, and other needs. Amendment D would authorize selling bonds for highway infrastructure and other critical needs. Neither would raise taxes, but under C, the state would not be required to refund a part of taxes already paid.
Colorado is faced with a critical financial crisis. We already have he lowest state tax rate in the country. How did we get into this mess?
In 1992 what is known as the Tabor Amendment was passed by Colorado voters. It is unbelievably complicated. Financial officers have lost their hair and their tempers trying to comply with it. Grossly over simplified, each year the revenue spent cannot exceed 3% to 5% over that of the preceding year, based on the cost of living and population growth. What that amounts to is that in bad years revenue goes down,
but in good years the state collects more revenue than it is allowed to spend and is required to refund a part of that money to the taxpayers.
This is called the ratchet effect. A ratchet is a wheel with notches that go only one way. In this case it is down.
How do we get out of this mess?
For years the Legislature has been fighting over it. This year the crisis is so severe that they finally reached a compromise (remember that word?), lifting for five years parts of Tabor which limited spending, and authorizing selling bonds for highway maintenance and other needs. The voters are being asked to approve their action.
Republican Senator Ron Tech and Democratic Representative Bernie Buescher, past and present members of the Joint Budget Committee had a great deal to do with achieving this solution, and it was signed by Republican Governor Bill Owens.
Once again, this is not a tax bill. Sure, the $25 refund that you will not get if it passes might buy a pizza and a couple beers or pay part of the gas bill. But that $25 from all of us might pay for a part of the new highway to Montrose or prevent a cut in Mesa State College.
It all comes down to the kind of state we want, a growing, exciting one or a declining one. " Yes" votes on Referenda C & D will be the most important votes we can cast this year
I hope my great-grandchildren won't have to get to Glenwood on a dirt road, or leave the state to afford college.