Prop. CC Will Hike Your Taxes — To Pay For Politicians’ Pet Projects

Prop. CC Will Hike Your Taxes — To Pay For Politicians’ Pet Projects

Coloradans want to be able to trust their state legislators to work in the best interest of their constituents.

October 15, 2019

Coloradans want to be able to trust their state legislators to work in the best interest of their constituents. But so often we are misled and deceived by creative budget maneuvering, tricky language, and emotional manipulation by elected officials in order to move their priorities. Proposition CC is an example of all three.

If you read Proposition CC’s ballot language, you’ll be hard pressed to figure out what it’s really asking. It doesn’t say it’s permanent; it doesn’t mention the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and it doesn’t point out that it’s a tax increase. In fact, it deceptively begins by saying, “Without raising taxes…,” even though state government will be keeping and spending billions of dollars that would otherwise go back to taxpayers. While not a change in the tax rate, it is surely an increase in the tax liability of every Coloradan.

Frankly, the ballot language would get laughed out of the Title Board if a citizen ever brought it. But the legislature didn’t have to play by the same rules. The governing body that is asking for the tax increase got to single-handedly decide on the language that voters would see.

If legislators were being honest, the ballot language would read something like: “Can state government keep your TABOR tax refunds forever?” It’s not hard to guess how an honest ballot question like that would fare with the voters.

Nevertheless, Proposition CC would simply be a permanent blank check to the state coffers, with no guarantee that the money will even go to education and transportation in the future. Even Speaker of the House KC Becker said, “One legislature can’t bind future legislators, so I don’t know what’s going to happen forevermore.”

With no sunset on this ballot issue, and no assurances on where the money will go, it’s simply far too much trust to hand over to state politicians.

One thing we do know is that statewide polling clearly shows that Coloradans want our roads fixed and higher pay for teachers. Prop CC would do neither. We can’t bond for roads with TABOR tax refund money that might or might not be there year-to-year. We also can’t increase teacher pay, or hire new teachers, because the measure explicitly precludes it.

Let’s not forget, we’ve been here before. In 2005, we accepted a temporary time-out on our TABOR tax refunds, allowing more funding to the government in exchange for a promised boost to increased funding of our priorities, including higher education. What actually happened was legislators cut higher education spending from existing sources and “replaced” those cuts with Ref C money. The result? The percentage of General Fund spending flowing to higher education actually decreased after Ref C. No wonder so many leaders in higher education like Hank Brown and CU Regent Heidi Ganahl are fighting against Prop CC.

Over the last several years, between Ref C money, higher car registration fees, and the 2017 Hospital Provider Fee bill, Coloradans are sending more than $3 billion in additional funding to fix our roads every year. Yet our roads (especially in rural parts of the state) are at the bottom of national rankings.

Coloradans have it better than most. Through the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, we get to vote when politicians want to raise our taxes. Our TABOR tax refunds are projected to be $1.7 billion over the next three years. All of that money should be refunded to taxpayers.

If the legislature wants to prioritize roads, bridges, teacher pay, and student success, they can already do that. Instead, they’re relying on misleading information and manipulative ballot language for this tax increase and counting on us to cave to the pressure of crumbling roads and wanting to improve our education system. They’ll be back again next year asking for more — I’ll bet my TABOR tax refund on it.

Tilor Ridge is the executive director of Colorado Rising Action, former senior issue director of Americans For Prosperity and state director of AFP Colorado.


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