Sep 142010
Authors: Ian Bezek

While regular readers of my column are well aware of my profound distrust of large government and my appreciation for low levels of taxation, there are limits to my enthusiasm.

And the proponents of the three tax-cutting amendments to the Colorado Constitution that we will vote on this November have crossed that line.
Backers of Amendments 60, 61 and 101, such as the Colorado Taxpayers Union and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, claim that Coloradans are over-governed, rather than under-taxed.

In the long run, they may be right. It’s clear that our current model of running, for example, the public school system isn’t working. Over the long haul, we should focus on setting up vouchers and private alternatives to our inefficient public schools.

That said, Colorado already has, compared with other states, a low level of both taxation and publicly provided services. And these three anti-tax amendments would obliterate the already low level of funding our state government receives.

According to Tom Clark, who is the executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp, the passage of these three amendments would strip another $1.6 billion from Colorado’s general fund. This is in addition to the $2.5 billion in cuts Colorado has already made since the beginning of the recession.

As you may be aware, the state of Colorado has already had to make widespread deep cuts across many state programs, triggering, among other things, the crisis in higher education. Removing another $1.6 billion from the state’s depleted funds would force the state to start making unimaginable cuts.
In addition, Amendment 61 would bar the state government of Colorado from borrowing money for any purpose and also limit localities to a very narrow range of borrowing options, all of which would have to be approved by voters.

In short, the credit market would be totally off-limits to Colorado institutions. Whether or not this is a good thing, in the long run, is debatable.

What is certain, however, is that almost no one has considered the ramifications of taking such a severe action now, particularly when it would go into effect in
January of 2011. These little-known ballot amendments would utterly transform the funding of both local and state governments with very little discussion about what the results would be.

In short, the proponents of these ballot measures are asking us to trust them, so far without evidence, when they say that the best solution to Colorado’s already-strained budget picture is to drastically cut revenue immediately.

So far, it seems, there is at least some chance that this trio of ballot measures could pass. I’m guessing that this is mainly due to the fact that they’ve flown under the media radar.

But now, they are coming under fire from all sides. Even Republicans have gone on the offensive, with the majority of Republican state representatives and state senators coming out in public opposition to the measures.

Even Tea Party-backed Republican congressional candidate Cory Gardner is against the proposals. In short, it’s the far right, and only the far right, that appears to be trying to pull a trick on Colorado voters.

It’s one thing to oppose taxes and gradually wish to reduce them. This is a sensible position that I support.
But these amendments are not a gradual proposal and there is no evidence there is any need for them now. Colorado’s government is as far from bloated as it has been in years. We’ve slashed spending for prisons, roads and other basic public goods. Our university’s funding has been cut so much that we’re on the verge of going private.

If ever there was a time to not cut taxes, it would be now. Let’s wait until the economy recovers a little and then discuss whether or not we wish to radically overhaul our tax code.

I urge Colorado voters not to blindly pass radical amendments without first considering their consequences.

Columnist Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and Feedback can be sent to

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