The hottest issues on the ballot this year are Referendums C and D. If passed, these will allow the state to allocate more money to education, health care and transportation. It is complicated, however, and some background information is necessary to understand the issue fully.
In 1992, after many years of affluence, Colorado voters passed the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR requires, basically, that a state spend no more than it did in the previous year plus a percentage increase in population and inflation. Any taxes collected over this number are returned to the voters in the form of a tax refund. The idea is that the budget will only increase as more people move into Colorado, or as the dollar inflates.
But this plan only works if the years of affluence continue. According to the 2005 "Blue Book," published by the Colorado Legislative Council, in 2001 the state experienced a recession and in 2002 collected only $7.8 billion when a spending limit of $8.1 billion was set from the previous year plus population increase and inflation. In 2003, the spending limit was set at $7.8 billion because TABOR calls for the previous year's budget as the starting point. Obviously, there was no tax refund that year.
Because TABOR didn't allow for a rainy day fund, the state was forced to support a population increase with less money than it had in previous years. An increased population meant more people on the roads and more children in the schools. But the state did not have the resources and were forced to cut the budget.
Referendum C would allow the state to withhold tax refunds for the next five years. The increase in spending over the entire five-year period is estimated to be $3.743 billion. It could be higher or lower depending on how well the economy does in the next five years. The highest total estimated refund a taxpayer would receive over the entire five-year period is $1,021. The average estimate is $491 over the five-year period. This refund is of sales taxes only. Income taxes are unaffected by Referendum C and refunds would still be given.
It would also set the spending limit for 2011 on the highest revenue collected during the five years from 2006 to 2010.
Referendum C would also allow the state to spend an additional $100 million each year if Referendum D passes.
Referendum D would allow the state to borrow up to a little more than $2 billion for immediate funding to K-12, higher education, transportation and healthcare.
Some on the far right want to keep spending low. I don't claim to understand why anyone would want to ratchet up tuition at state universities, or make healthcare unaffordable, or allow our roads to degrade. But there are those who will vote no on C and D because they don't think the state needs to spend more money and they want the tax refund TABOR gives them.
However, TABOR will not survive if C and D fail.
CSU President Larry Penley warned at his Fall Address that if C and D do not pass, tuition will increase 30 to 50 percent.
Despite Amendment 23, K-12 funding per school will drop as it did last year.
Roads will not receive proper repair.
Taxpayers will not care about a $100 refund at the end of the year. They will want quality K-12 education, affordable tuition at state institutions, affordable healthcare for their loved ones and proper roads and transportation. If C and D do not pass, new tactics will be necessary. Voters will repeal TABOR.
Vote "yes" on Referendums C and D. Not only affordable higher education, but also fiscal conservancy depends on it.
Ben Bleckley is a senior English major. His column runs every Monday.