The Denver City Council could make an official push next Monday for the passage of a statewide ballot measure that would result in more funding for transportation and education in Colorado.
A proclamation declaring support for Proposition CC, which would permanently remove the revenue cap under the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is headed to the council floor after a Tuesday meeting of the council's Finance & Governance Committee.
A draft of the proposed resolution states that TABOR’s “unintended consequences” have gotten in the way of local governments’ ability to “function effectively” and the state legislature's efforts to budget funds equitably.
The Denver Regional Council of Governments' Board of Directors passed a similar declaration of support for Prop CC in a 29-7 vote at its most recent board meeting, said City Council President Jolon Clark, who is the council's alternate on the board.
TABOR, a 1992 amendment to the Colorado Constitution, ties year-to-year increases in some state government revenue with population growth and inflation. Each year, money in excess of that limit is returned to taxpayers, unless voters give the government permission to keep it.
If Prop CC passes on Nov. 5, any excess revenues in future years will be divided equally among three areas: public K-12 schools, public higher education institutions and highway and transit projects.
The measure is expected to increase funding for each of those areas by about $103 million in the 2020-21 budget year and about $114 million in the 2021-22 budget year, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly.
“If Prop CC were to pass, some of that money would come to the city and county of Denver just as a natural course,” said Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds.
Meanwhile, single-filer taxpayers would miss out on refunds of between $26 and $79 in tax year 2020 and between $30 and $90 in tax year 2021, depending on their income, the Legislative Council says.
Proponents of the measure say it would generate necessary investments for Colorado's education and infrastructure systems.
“This is simply asking what TABOR says to do — ‘May we keep the extra money that comes in over the formula?’,” state Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver, told the council committee. “This does not change TABOR. It does not raise taxes.”
But critics of the measure argue that Prop CC results in higher taxes because residents won’t be getting refunds they otherwise would have. If it passes, taxpayers will ultimately have less protection under Colorado law, opponents say.
TABOR also imposes a similar revenue cap for Colorado cities, towns and counties. But Denver — along with many other local governments and school districts across the state — has voted to eliminate that cap for the city and county.
A state fiscal analysis of Proposition CC states that if the measure is defeated, about $310 million would exceed the state’s TABOR spending limits in 2019-20 and would go back to taxpayers in the form of TABOR refunds, and $342 million in the following year.
Heidi Ganahl, a Republican who co-chairs the committee seeking to defeat the proposition, said at a Sept. 4 debate on the issue that she's skeptical whether future legislatures will take out money elsewhere in the budget for education and transportation if Prop CC passes.
She said Colorado doesn’t have a revenue problem — with a budget of about $32 billion this year — but has a spending problem.
“This is more about prioritizing and making sure we’re spending on the right things with the existing money we have rather than taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers," she said, adding that CC would cost "a lot of money for some families, especially in rural Colorado and some of our communities that are struggling."
But Colorado House Speaker KC Becker, a Prop CC supporter, argued at the Common Sense Policy Roundtable breakfast debate that "if we want to have a prosperous state, we have to make the investments in our people, in our roads and our state institutions."
Joey Bunch and Marianne Goodland of Colorado Politics contributed.