The issue: Should the state be allowed to direct excess tax money to transportation and education? That’s the ballot measure before voters.
What we think: It’s time to loosen TABOR’s stranglehold on Colorado’s budget to help ease traffic congestion and educate the state’s future workforce.
Tell us what you think: Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorado’s Proposition CC effectively “de-Bruces” the state, allowing the legislature to keep excess revenue and use it for transportation and education, instead of refunding it to residents.
It’s a measure that keeps the best part of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which requires voter approval for any new taxes by any local or state governmental body. But it ends the complicated and onerous cap formula requiring the state to return excess revenue based on population growth and inflation. Typically, the state returns betweeen $26-$90 to each taxpayer annually during growth years.
“For fiscal year 2019, $428.5 million will be returned to taxpayers in the form of property tax exemptions, temporary income tax rate reductions and a sales tax refund when taxpayers file their 2019 tax forms in 2020,” the Tax Foundation states, adding, if passed, FY 2019 refunds would not be affected, but Colorado voters would forgo all future TABOR refunds.
TABOR prevents the General Assembly from being able to save adequately for the inevitable economic downturn, so during recessions the state is forced to cut services.
With that extra money — about $310 million in 2019-2020 and $342 million estimated for 2020-2021 — we could improve roads across the state, and end traffic jams on Powers Boulevard, which is a state highway though it receives little attention from the state. We could ease summer traffic to the mountains on Highway 24. We could end the inevitable hours-long stops on Interstate 70, the winter gateway to many ski resorts.
And we could improve educational outcomes for students. Colorado is woefully behind in state funding for education, consistently ranking near the bottom in measure after measure. We’re in the bottom third for expenditures per child, for example — we rank 39th out of 50 states. Investing in education is investing in the future; it’s building the economy and our workforce.
We have a growing workforce skills gap, and voting for Proposition CC will support skills development for the future that matches the needs of Colorado businesses.
Higher education would receive part of the funding. Right now, Colorado invests so little in higher ed that even the public schools are essentially private — with parents and student loans paying the bulk of ever-increasing tuition and fees. As college gets more expensive, fewer people can attend — creating an even wider skills gap for high-paying, high-tech jobs.
Proposition CC comes with an added safeguard for people concerned about proliferating state spending: The state auditor would hire a third-party auditor to make sure the money is used as promised. And it’s allocated this way in the ballot measure: $103 million to public schools; $103 million to public higher education; and $103 million to state and local highway and transit projects. The next year, those figures would rise to $114 million each.
Remember, Colorado Springs has its own TABOR measure. Our local laws wouldn’t be affected, so there’s no need to be concerned about overreach or overspending by City Council or the Mayor’s Office connected to Prop CC. Voters will continue to decide whether to allow the city to keep excess revenue for specific projects.
Proposition CC frees the decision-makers at the state legislature to do what we elected them to do: Govern. Because it channels funding to transportation and education only, there won’t be any wild spending sprees in Denver. Instead, we can look forward to smoother commutes and brighter educational futures.