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Colorado tax cuts evoke Wild West

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

Colorado lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are worried about taxes. In that state, though, the concern is that voters this November will approve three ballot measures that will cut taxes.

Amendment 60 would require Colorado's school districts to cut property taxes. The state would then be forced to come up with ways to pay for its young residents' educations.

Amendment 61 would prevent Colorado from borrowing money. The ballot issue also would limit the borrowing power of local governments.

Proposition 101 would cut Colorado's state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent in 2011 and to 3.5 percent gradually over time. It also would reduce or eliminate taxes and fees on vehicle purchases, registrations, leases and rentals during the next four years. And the proposition would do away with all state and local taxes and fees on telecommunication services except 911 fees.

An analysis by the Colorado legislature found that if the three measures pass, the Centennial State would lose $2.1 billion in revenue and would be forced to increase school spending by $1.6 billion to make up the shortfall created. That unexpected expenditure would mean that Colorado would have to spend nearly all of its general fund budget on education.

And what's the going price at which voters will sell out their state's fiscal future and their kids' educations? $1,360 a year. That's the estimate of what the average Colorado family would save on taxes if the three referenda pass in November.

All this talk of tax cutting comes on the heels of the widely publicized fiscal problems of Colorado Springs earlier this year.

Anti-tax residents there decided they were fine with paying less taxes and getting fewer services. Streetlights in Colorado Springs went dark. Bus routes were stopped. Road repair was halted. Trash piled up in city park garbage cans.

But hey, folks had smaller tax bills. And that's all that counts, right?

Wrong.

I know Colorado is a Western state, but really people, do you want to live like it's the Wild West of the 19th century instead of 2010?

Nobody wants to overpay for anything, including government services. But instead of simply slashing taxes, and the associated community needs and amenities that the tax money pays for, citizens should demand lawmakers take closer looks at just what services their governments should provide and at what levels.

By simply branding all taxes as bad and using ballot initiatives to slash them -- regardless of the real-life costs -- then the voters are no better than the lawmakers they blame for the taxes' existence.

What services would you give up in exchange for lower taxes?

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8 Comments
End the Ponzi Scheme
September 23, 2010 at 8:56 am

Things in Austin I'd happily live without:
1. CapMetro - Agency blows $100M+ on a Choo-Choo train that has about 400 riders a day (they quote boardings, so each way counts as one), is slower than the bus on the same route, can't seem to run in the rain, keep the crossing arms functional, and actually go somewhere people want to go. Save 1% sales tax.
2. ACC - Wildly spending to expand the empire, then wasteful once they start getting your money by buying prime location real estate. Sending everyone in town a phonebook sized course catalog two or three times a year, that's a good use of funds. 0.0946 property tax rate savings.
3. Hospital district - misnamed since it actually runs a bunch of clinics for illegals. If you speak english, have a green card, or otherwise aren't already soaking the taxpayer, don't bother trying to get services there. 0.0674 property tax rate savings.
4. Animal control - "We'll be there in 3 days to collect the nuisance animal" is the stock response. If you have a problem with animals, you end up calling the police or deal with it yourself. So, they are essentially redundant.
5. AISD - while the school tax rate is low, the massive waste in the central office is unacceptable. Exactly how many levels of management are necessary to conceal problems? Given the number of failing schools (and more would be if the state test standard wasn't lowered), I'd say I'm not getting what I paid for at all.
6. All sponsorships of parades, festivals, conventions - If Austin is so great they will come anyway, quit using my money to finance others vacations.

That's the short list.

upordownvote
September 23, 2010 at 12:00 am

The truth is that even this proposed change is against the US and the Colorado Constitution. All current Statutes referring to any property tax are in fact "VOLUNTARY", yes it is true. The Republicans and the Democrats will lead you to believe that you are required to pay these taxes, but look for yourselves, you will not find one single Statute that makes you Liable for any Property tax. So this means that both the Dems and the Reps have been committing fraud on the very people who elected them. If the Reps and the Dems will defraud you equally, who are you really voting for. We are educating folks on the truth of the Law and your rights, no one can vote your Rights away, even if 99% or the voter vote against you, no one can force you to give up your Rights, you do this Voluntarily, Call your Tax Assessor, if all this confiscation is Legal, then your Assessors office should have those Laws requiring you to pay a tax for which you are liable to pay, sitting right by the phone, but guess what, they will give you the run around and will never give you such LAW, because it does not exist, but they will not tell you this, because they dont want you to know it is "VOLUNTARY".

Jim in Georgia
September 22, 2010 at 7:30 am

Governments have to make hard choices about finances just like I do. That $1360 is a lot of money to guys like me. I am an engineer and my wife stays home and take care of our 4 children. The $1360 helps pay for the needs of my family. It sounds like you think that taxpayers have an obligation to continue to feed an overweight and imprudent government. This is not true. Governments, local, state and federal, should look at what money they have to work with and make a priority list ... like I do. If the taxpayers vote to provide them with less to work with then that is what they have to do. They can start by cutting social services and/or education by 25%. I had to pull my 4 children out of swimming lessons and private school because I could no longer afford these luxuries. If I have to make sacrifices like these, governments should have to make them to. Remember Kay, this money does not belong to the government. It is EARNED by the taxpayer and is therefore part of his property. To rain malice down on people who dare to want to keep a little bit more of what THEY EARN is profane to me and millions like me.

Randy
September 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Don't believe everything you read in the media about Colorado Springs. We are just fine here. In fact we had enough extra money lying around to give the US Olympic Committe $46 million to stay.

We live within our means. Other cities should try it sometime. Can you hear me NY and LA?

Dylan
September 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm

It serves everyone who votes for this right if it passes. It's ridiculous that these even made it on the ballot, some of the most under handed politics I've ever heard of. It doesn't even benefit a special interest group! Who the hell cares if we tax rental cars? I want to know what percentage of car rentals are done by in-state residents vs. out of state visitors. Seems to me like we're just cutting that tax for vacationers.

Natalie
September 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm

How do you "lose" money if it stays in the private economy to be spent or invested, either way it generates income tax and / or sales tax, versus going into the loose pockets of government?

Btw, thanks for (NOT) contacting us, Kay. Great journalist job, guess you forgot to mention the bankers and brokers who benefit from interest which really buys nothing and could be going to government services. Good job!