2010 Colorado elections: Initiative 101, Amendments 60, 61

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From the editorial board of the Sterling Journal Advocate:

What should be the first, biggest concern locally is the city of Sterling is committed to a $29 million water project. Paying that off in 10 years would raise rates even higher than what some residents and businesses see as crippling.

We agree that government needs to be limited, and the more money a worker has in his or her pocket the better the economy is. We would even consider that the state government needs ratcheting down. We do, however, admit to being nervous ourselves about how extreme these proposals are.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Amendment 61 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to:

• Prohibit all state government borrowing
• Prohibit local government borrowing unless approved by voters
• Limit the amount and length of time of local government borrowing
• Require that tax rates be reduced after borrowing is repaid

Arguments For Amendment 61:

Recent data show that over the past 10 years, borrowing by the state and its enterprises in Colorado has nearly tripled and interest payments have more than doubled. Borrowing is expensive because it includes interest payments and fees, and too much government borrowing today could affect public services in the future. Limits on borrowing are needed to be sure spending directly benefits the public instead of being committed to repay debts. Amendment 61 encourages fiscal restraint through a pay-as-you-go approach to government spending. This approach prevents government from passing on debt to future generations. Because the public is responsible for paying government borrowing through taxes and fees, voters should be asked before money is borrowed. Governments have found creative ways to borrow because the existing limits on government borrowing are not strict enough and the government can still borrow without voter approval. Amendment 61 requires that any future local government borrowing be submitted to voters for consideration. Amendment 61 reduces taxes when borrowing is repaid, giving individuals and businesses more money to spend as they please. Tax rates should go down when borrowing is repaid because the government no longer needs money for the annual payments.

Arguments Against Amendment 61:

Borrowing is a crucial tool for financing large public investments. Similar to the way that private citizens use a loan to buy a home or car, borrowing is often the only way governments can afford to build and maintain safe bridges, roads, and schools. Amendment 61 makes it harder to manage public finances at the lowest cost and to respond in a timely manner to the needs of citizens. Amendment 61 limits the ability of communities to meet the demands of a growing economy. Colorado’s population has grown almost 20 percent in the last decade, requiring new roads, schools, and water treatment plants. These public investments are the foundations needed by communities to operate and to attract residents and businesses. Some governments will face serious financial disruptions as a result of Amendment 61. For example, in 2011, school districts that rely on short-term borrowing will be in fiscal deficit until spring tax collections are received, and will have to consider options such as reducing or suspending teacher pay, closing schools, or selling buildings. Some public buildings are built to last 30 years or more, but Amendment 61 prohibits borrowing by the state. This means that current taxpayers must pay the full cost of state buildings and roads rather than sharing the cost with future residents who benefit from these improvements. Amendment 61 places a disproportionate the full burden on today’s taxpayers.

SOURCE: 2010 Colorado Ballot Analysis, Second Draft, Colorado Legislative Council www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1200536134742, where information on Amendment 60 and Proposition 101 can also be found.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

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