Coloradans rejected attacks on their communities and voted to invest in vital public services
Despite the anti-tax sentiment some pundits and media outlets report is sweeping the nation during the economic downturn, Colorado voters in the Nov. 2 election reaffirmed their commitment to vital community services at all levels of government. The extreme state fiscal measures Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101, were defeated by astounding margins,and local communities proactively supported more revenue for services like kindergarten through 12th-grade education, emergency services and road maintenance.
Voters are increasingly aware of the effects of reduced services in their communities. Coloradans bucked the national trend and voted to protect and even expand their communities’ investments.
The decisions in support of public services come at a time when voters are wary of overspending. That heightened sense of austerity led many to believe the tax-cutting measures had a real possibility of success – perhaps a voter would see the title, “Lower Property Taxes,” on the ballot and vote “yes” to save money.
That belief was unwarranted as Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101 were all defeated by nearly a three-to-one margin. Voters realized the harmful consequences of lowering their taxes irresponsibly. Sure, they could pay only $10 to register a vehicle, but they would pay for it later if road maintenance worsened dramatically. They could lower their already relatively low property taxes, but voters realized that would lead to larger class sizes and loss of local control. Even when faced with the nice-sounding title of “Limit Debt,” voters realized the importance of public borrowing to their communities.
But Coloradans did not stop there; many communities went even further and voted to increase revenue for local services. The majority of issues to support a local school district passed. Among 23 communities with ballot measures to increase property taxes to support schools, 16 of the measures were approved. For example, Littleton voters decided to raise $12 million for their schools to offset a cut in funding from the state. The majority of school bond elections to fund new infrastructure improvements also passed. That included Mapleton School District 1, where voters approved a $32 million bond project. Poudre School District R-1 in Larimer County passed both a mill levy increase and a bond, in part to restore 140 positions lost due to funding cuts.
Support for local services went beyond schools. For example, Boulder voted to increase property taxes to support human services, and Fort Collins voted to increase sales taxes to support general services. In Colorado Springs, 71 percent of voters rejected tax rebates and agreed to invest in maintaining local roads. Many fire districts across the state will receive additional funding as a result of the election.
Coloradans know public dollars have been stretched thinly during theeconomic downturn. They can see the cuts in their schools, colleges and other services. Not only has money for state and local services declined, but the need for those services, such as health care and higher education, has risen dramatically.
The election offered Colorado voters clear choices. Voters could have supported measures that slashed government revenues to irresponsible levels. But they didn’t; the vast majority of Coloradans rejected those attacks on their communities. On Election Day, voters proved that when they faced with the choice, they will decide not just what is best for their checkbooks, but also what is best for their communities.
Contact: Mark Neuman-Lee
303-573-5669, ext. 310
Released Nov. 4, 2010