Colorado Keeps Controversial Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
Proposition CC would have let the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap — money that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. The measure was rejected by Colorado voters.
(TNS) — Colorado voters have soundly rejected Proposition CC, dealing a blow to Democratic budget reform efforts and giving the state’s fiscal conservatives a significant victory.
“This is the definition of a team win,” said Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, which led opposition to Prop CC. “We were up against misleading ballot language and millions of dollars of out-of-state money pouring in against us, but thankfully our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is preserved.”
There were 610,536 votes in favor of Proposition CC and 749,905 in opposition, an 11-percentage-point difference, as of Wednesday morning.
“I didn’t want the state to hold my money,” said Kylen Partch of Lakewood after she voted against Prop CC on Tuesday. “It’s mine.”
The measure would have let the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap — money that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. Democrats said it wasn’t a tax increase; Republicans argued it effectively was.
“Once again, the people of Colorado have confirmed that they are the boss, not our part-time state legislature,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Parker Republican. “Despite overwhelming funding advantages, questionable ballot language, and the full endorsement of the Democratic power trifecta in Colorado, Proposition CC has failed.”
The first results showed Prop CC up big — but no one at the “No on CC” watch party in Denver was too worried. They felt confident the tide would turn once more non-Denver numbers came in and, within minutes, things started to look up. By 7:40 p.m., the “no” side was up nearly a dozen percentage points.
“I know it’s going to be defeated,” said a beaming Bill Owens, the former Republican governor who advised the No on CC campaign, at the time. “We’ve seen the numbers.”
The tea leaves were becoming clear as some attendees began filtering out of a pro-CC gathering at Improper City in Denver’s River North Art District about 8 p.m. But officially, campaign backers were waiting for more results from Democratic strongholds to come in to see how much the negative margin narrowed. By 9 p.m., they had conceded.
“We didn’t win tonight, but we have advanced this conversation in such an important way,” said Colorado House Speaker KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat, to cheers.
“More Coloradans know today that Colorado is at the bottom of the barrel in our support for K-12, higher ed and transportation. And if this is not the solution, we’re going to keep working on solutions,” she added.
The measure was referred to the ballot by Democratic lawmakers, and estimates for how much the state could retain over the next three years ranged from $550 million to $1.7 billion. A law passed separately would have divided the money evenly among transportation, K-12 education and higher education.
If CC had passed, projections show, taxpayers would have missed out on refunds as small as $20 or as high as $248. It carried high stakes, and not just because of the potential dollars attached to it.
For Democrats, it was a chance to finally put a dent in TABOR, which significantly hampers the ability of Colorado governments to raise money because it requires voter support for any tax hike. Voters have been loathe to pass new statewide taxes since TABOR passed 27 years ago. CC wouldn’t have affected that part of TABOR, instead taking aim at the requirement to issue refunds if revenue grows faster than allowed by a formula that accounts for population growth and inflation.
A new tax, CC was not. But it would have led to the state keeping more taxpayer money than it does now — something Democrats de-emphasized in their limited campaign for the measure.
Republicans were desperate to stave off CC, which many GOP voters and party leaders saw as an attack on TABOR that, if successful, could set Democrats on a path toward seeking more limits on the law, if not a full-on repeal attempt. Opponents repeatedly accused Democrats of writing CC in misleading language, and felt the wording was a disadvantage to their side.
The pro-CC camp led the spending fight with about $4 million, a quarter of which came from University of Denver Chancellor Emeritus Dan Ritchie. The No on CC campaign was buoyed primarily by the Charles Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity Colorado chapter, which has spent about $1.5 million.
What the “no” camp lacked in money it has made up for in enthusiasm. That side has been campaigning since early summer, whereas the pro-CC side didn’t even officially launch until October.
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