All of Colorado's living governors are now on the record on Proposition CC, after five Democrats came down in favor of the tax measure on this year's ballot on Tuesday morning.
Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who served from 1999 to 2007, is one of the leaders of the opposition to the ballot measure.
In 2005, Owens notably backed Referendum C, which provided a five-year timeout from TABOR refunds to allow the state's then-struggling budget to regain its balance and put money into a variety of projects, including transportation and health care.
The proposition would allow Coloradans to forego their future rebates under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and steer that money — which is only available in prosperous economic times when the state exceeds a constitutional spending cap — for K-12 schools, higher education and transportation.
That sounds like a great idea to the current governor, Jared Polis, along with his Democratic colleagues Richard Lamm (1975-87), Roy Romer (1987-99), Bill Ritter (2007-11) and John Hickenlooper (2011-19), who jointly announced their endorsements Tuesday.
“Our schools and infrastructure are not keeping up with our growing economy and population,” Polis said in a statement. “Proposition CC will reduce congestion and improve our schools. The amazing thing is that we can do it without raising taxes.”
Hickenlooper, who is running for U.S. Senate next year, said teachers are "undervalued and deserve more resources," while roads and bridges could use a boost, though critics on the right have pointed to failed attempts to steer more money into both during his eight years in the governor's office.
"Prop CC will help us address both of those critical issues by making needed investments in Colorado's priorities, without raising taxes," Hickenlooper stated.
Ritter made the disputed case that keeping a tax refund does not amount to a new tax.
“Coloradans treasure our way of life," he said in his statement. "Our identity is tied to this place we live and love, but we need to do what almost every public and private sector leader has told us. We need to invest to keep it. The best part? We can do it with no new taxes, with unprecedented transparency and accountability. Let’s vote to uphold our values and grow Colorado responsibly.”
Romer said TABOR "has shackled Colorado’s investments, leading to some of the most underfunded roads, bridges and schools in the country.”
He added, “It’s time to unleash Colorado and move into the 21st-century by investing in things Coloradans have been demanding for decades.”
Said Lamm: “With one vote on this commonsense measure we can untangle our broken tax code and start fixing things.”
Owens this year is a member of the No on CC advisory board, and he's urging fellow Coloradans not to buy lawmakers "short-term promises" on education and transportation and think about the long-term effects of permanently doing away with TABOR refunds, a check on government growth and spending.
“Having served as governor when Referendum C passed in 2005, I understand the difference between short-term adjustments during funding crises and permanent blank checks that the state government too often wishes it could write itself,” Owens said. “Proposition CC is the latter, and for the sake of future generations of Colorado taxpayers, I urge voters to reject it in November.”