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Colorado Ballot Recap

by Brent Mead / /

With apologies to Louisiana, the 2011 election season started inearnest last night in Colorado. Voters overwhelmingly defeated the onlystatewide tax increase on the ballot in the country, and created a “killing field” of local taxincreases. The quickest and easiest way to summarize last night's results is that taxpayers and voters have little appetite for tax increases that jeopardize job growth when the national unemployment is sitting at 9.1%. As long as the economy continues to struggle, I would predict that measures like Proposition 103, which sought to raise taxes $532 million per year, will continue to fail.

Before going into any detail it worth stating that Tuesday onceagain showed the value of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). As our friendsat the IllinoisPolicy Institute stated on facebook, “This Proposition [103] is losing 65%to 35% and calls for a fraction of the tax increase that the Illinoislegislature passed in January. What if Illinois taxpayers were allowed to voteon that one?” That could be true in any number of places. The beauty of TABOR isthat it lets the taxpayers, rather than politicians, decide on the appropriatesize of government.

Now onto a couple of the measures…

Proposition103 (Failed 36%-63%)

It should not come as a huge surprise that Proposition 103 went downin defeat. After all, every poll taken on the measure had it losing. However,with the edge in funding, $600,000 in favor to $25,000 spent by the opposition,the margin of defeat is very surprising. The margin of defeat probably also contributed to the number oflocal levies and bond issues that failed. When you look at the countybreakdowns in vote totals, the three counties which voted yes for Proposition103 were also the only counties that passed any significant local tax hikes. WhileColorado does have a strong history of rejecting tax increases, the significanceof the vote last night should not be understated.

One of the reasons NTU compiles its annual ballot guide is to havea resource to look towards the future. In that light, Proposition 103 shouldinform states like South Dakota, which is looking at putting a very similarsales tax measure on the 2012 ballot.

City ofBoulder

One of the few tax increases approved by voters came in Boulder.Given the city’s general political leanings, again it is not overly surprising.Residents voted to create a municipal power company to replace Xcel Energy, andto impose a multi-million, multi-year tax increase to finance the new publicutility.

However, the vote was far from overwhelming, the measure to createthe new utility passed 51%-48%, and the tax increase to pay for the new companypassed by roughly 125 votes (50%-49%).

The long term costs of these two measures could quickly escalateto close to $1 billion as the city goes through the process of buying Xcel’sassets and transmission capabilities. Proponents of the ballot measuresstressed they would not move forward if creation of a public utility provedcost-prohibitive. Yesterday’s close vote should further stress the need toproceed with extreme caution.

PitkinCounty

The only other area taxpayers really took a hit was in PitkinCounty. Voters passed, by a 60%-39% margin, a measure to increase propertytaxes by $460,000 a year to pay for expanded county health services. They alsopassed a handful of local fire and water district taxes.

EverywhereElse

That was really it for the bad news. Voters in Aurora shot down a $100million bonding measure. Chaffee County defeated all three tax increases, whichwere nominally obligated to emergency services and road repairs. Denveroverwhelming defeated a proposal to mandate businesses offer employees a setamount of sick leave.

I can go on and on down the rest of our BallotGuide, but the story is much the same. Despite warnings and reports to thecontrary, it does not seem that voters in Colorado at least have any more anappetite for tax hikes and more government than they had last year.