From CBS4Denver.com (Paul Day):
Denver Water operates numerous dams and facilities in 13 different counties. All the public waterworks have been exempt from paying taxes since Colorado became a state in 1876. But that changes if 60 gets passed by the voters. Calculations by Denver Water show the utility would quickly face a $20 million tax bill. To cover the extra expenses, Denver Water says it has no choice but to immediately raise rates by 10 percent for all customers. That’s on top of all the other expenses Denver is facing with replacement of aging pipelines and wildfire mitigation around reservoirs. “You have people drafting a measure that don’t fully understand its impact,” Tate said…
Amendment 61 is also opposed by the Denver Water Board. It beliefs the initiative would hurt the utility’s ability to issue long term bonds. The impact to customers from Amendment 61 would be an additional 7 to 10 percent rate increase over the next 10 years according to Denver Water.
Here’s the Denver Water resolution in opposition to the Amendments.
Here’s an analysis of the measures from Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:
Opponents say the three would cut a wide swath of devastation across Colorado, imperiling the quality of everything the government does, from fighting crime to teaching children.
More coverage from The Aspen Times (Ivan Moreno). From the article:
The net effect, once fully implemented, would cost the state $2.1 billion in revenue annually and still require an additional $1.6 billion in spending on public education, according to an analysis (pdf) by the independent Colorado Legislative Council…
“It will plunge Colorado into another recession,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “And what will make it so unique in the history of our state is that it will be a voter-approved recession.”[…]
The proposals would force the state to devote 92 percent of its budget on constitutionally required K-12 education funding, leaving little for higher education, human services and prisons and everything else, according to the report…
In Colorado, Amendment 60 would drastically cut school district property taxes between 2011 and 2020 and force the state to make up the difference. Amendment 61 would prohibit the state from borrowing money for public works projects, including school construction — and local governments could borrow only with voter approval and if the debt is repaid within 10 years. Finally, Proposition 101 would cut the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent over a period of years. It would cut annual auto registration to $10 per vehicle and exempt the first $10,000 of a vehicle’s sales price from sales tax. And it would reduce telecommunication fees.
Without the ability to borrow, the state would be unable to bond any new construction, improvements or maintenance, the analysts said.
More coverage from the Delta County Independent (Pat Sunderland). From the article:
[Dave Laursen, chairman of Montrose Citizens for Funding Our Future] agreed that it was a mistake to raise revenue for transportation projects by labeling the increase “fees” rather than “taxes,” but said Proposition 101 will take the state back to 1919 rates “when there weren’t many roads in the state of Colorado.” Through that provision of Proponent 101 alone, CDOT’s transportation budget will be reduced by about 25 percent, he said. Specific ownership tax reductions, which are to be phased in over four years, will affect 25 taxing agencies in Delta County, he added. “That’s a $2.7 million reduction for agencies like the cemetery districts, water districts, ambulance district, school, county and cities.” For the ambulance district, [Linda Lowitz, a member of the Delta County Ambulance District board] said, the cut in revenue equates to two paramedics. State grants and state funding would also be at risk, she believes.
[Joe Kerby, Delta city manager] said the City of Delta would see “significant” revenue reductions in the general fund, citywide capital improvement fund and rec center fund. The first year, that revenue reduction would total more than $500,000, he said. By 2014, when Proposition 101 is fully implemented, city revenues will be down nearly $700,000.
And then there is Paul Krugman writing in The New York Times:
We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.
Thanks to NewMexiKen for the link.
Meanwhile from the Salida Citizen (Mike Rosso):
The sponsors of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, also known as the “Dr. Evil Initiatives,” had to endure some uncomfortable questioning as well as fines after it was discovered they may have had ties to TABOR author Doug Bruce who has denied any hand in the budget-strangling measures.
Petition proponents for Amendment 60 are Bonnie Sloan of Black Hawk and Louis Schroeder of Greenwood Village. Proponents of 61 are Russell Haas of Golden and Michelle Northrup, also of Black Hawk. Proposition 101 was proposed by Jeff Gross, a house painter from Kersey, Co., and Freda Poundstone of Centennial. Schroeder, Haas and Gross were all ordered to pay fines of $2,000 each by Colorado Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer after a complaint was filed alleging violations of fair campaign finance and practice laws as they failed to register as issue committees and failed to report financial contributions. The Colorado Court of Appeals received an appeal on July 21 regarding all three cases, and they are set to be heard on October 18.
And now some special districts, including Parker Water and Sanitation District, are considering pre-emptive borrowing with the specter of the “Bad Three” passing. Here’s a report from Carlos Illescas writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
That has districts such as the Parker Water and Sanitation District working quickly to borrow more than $50 million through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to build a water-treatment facility. The Parker water board is expected to vote on the issue at next week’s meeting. Mary Spencer, president of the Parker water board, said it makes sense to do it now so that those who pay property taxes will be able to pay off the money over more time, such as 20 or 30 years instead of 10, and the payments won’t be as high. “We as a district are taking the necessary steps on the harmful effects of Amendment 61 if it passes,” Spencer said…
The Thunderbird Water and Sanitation District, a district that serves about 175 homeowners in the Indian Creek Ranch area southwest of Sedalia, is seeking voter approval on two measures to borrow about $875,000 a year.
On average, it would cost a homeowner an extra $300 to $400 a year, or about $30 a month, said David Gaige, vice president of the board. The money would be used to acquire groundwater rights, store the water and distribution costs. Gaige said that when the district board learned of Amendments 60 and 61, it decided that going for it now with less restrictions on the loans was better for all of its residents. “We would have to pay off the loan in 10 years instead of 20 years. That would be that much harder to get approved,” he said. “It puts the burden on the people right now when the people in the future would benefit.”
From email from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:
The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board of directors unanimously approved a resolution advocating voter opposition of Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101, which will appear on the statewide ballot in November. The board stated its strongest opposition to the initiatives and noted the concern being expressed nationally, citing a September 20 New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/us/politics/21colorado.html).
“The best interest of our customers is at the heart of this resolution,” explained board Chairman Bob Warner. “The financial impact of these three measures, separately or collectively, will severely limit the District’s ability to maintain, upgrade, or extend water and sewer services within our boundaries. These ballot measures will impair our ability to continue operating as a sound fiscal steward of public funds, a role in which this board prides itself.”
The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District owns and operates the public water systems which provide a safe and reliable supply of drinking water for customers from Vail to Edwards. The resolution states that the District will not have a practical means of borrowing money to construct and maintain water and sewer lines, wells, or wastewater treatment plants, such as those located in Vail, Avon, and Edwards, which treat sewage in an environmentally responsible manner.
Noting Colorado’s constitutional requirement of balanced government budgets, the board considered specific effects on District customers before passing the resolution. “I’m concerned that if 60, 61, and 101 pass, they force immediate and significant increases in customer service fees,” stated Debbie Buckley, board Secretary, noting that the revenue losses associated with the ballot measures would manifest themselves as immediate 20-25 percent customer rate increases.
Both Amendment 60 and Proposition 101 would result in District revenue losses, as they drastically cut property and vehicle taxes, respectively. Additionally, Amendment 60 would require the District to pay property taxes from which it was previously exempt.
Becky Bultemeier, District Customer and Financial Services Manager, said the likely extreme rate increase is contrary to District operations strategy. “Current District operations were developed to meet customer expectations, maintain stable service fee rates, and provide reliable water and sewer service. The projected rate increases are completely at odds with our financial philosophies, but will be required simply to maintain our basic services and infrastructure.”
The District carefully follows State budget laws, holding annual public hearings for budget approval; the District’s budget expires at year’s end, and any modifications require additional public hearings. Despite careful budgeting, the size and scope of some District projects require borrowing money.
“The District’s ‘growth pays for growth’ philosophy will no longer be feasible under Amendment 61,” noted Bultemeier. “With only a ten-year debt limit, necessary maintenance and upgrade projects will require immediate payment by current customers, despite benefitting future ones, and could double the cost of these projects if payment is required now.”
Before passing the resolution, District directors carefully considered the impacts of the measures according to independent analysis and web-based studies (online at http://www.donthurtcolorado.com).
The adverse impacts of these initiatives would be felt at both the local and state level. The District joins other local entities that have passed similar resolutions in opposition, including Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, the Towns of Avon, Vail, and Gypsum, Colorado Mountain College, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Beaver Creek Metropolitan District, and Eagle Valley Library District. The District board also noted the range of groups statewide that have voiced opposition, including Colorado Association of Realtors, Associated General Contractors of Colorado, Club 20, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Colorado Association of Home Builders, Colorado Restaurant Association, and numerous chambers of commerce, town councils, religious and professional organizations.
“The passage of any one of these ballot measures would severely and negatively impact District operations and our customers,” Warner noted. “It’s hard to imagine the full scope of the effects if all three passed.”
With early voting beginning October 18, the board urged the community to be informed on the ballot measures by reviewing the 2010 State Ballot Information Booklet, a voter guide better known as the Blue Book (http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1200536134742), and encouraged the voters of the District to vote “NO” on all three ballot measures.
More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.