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Higher Ed in the News

Educational information on Amendments 60, 61, and Proposition 101

September 27, 2010

The information on this page is intended to provide a factual overview of Colorado Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. The purpose of this information is to help citizens inform themselves on the pros and cons of these issues, not to suggest how individuals should vote. The summary language is excerpted from the Colorado 'Blue Book,' the 2010 State Ballot Information Booklet.

Fiscal Impact of Amendments 60, 61, and Proposition 101:

The Colorado Legislative Council, which assesses the fiscal impact of state ballot initiatives and legislation, estimates that if all three measures pass, they would have a $3.7 billion impact on the state’s budget: “State government would lose an estimated $2.1 billion annually, while state spending for K-12 education would increase by $1.6 billion per year to offset local funding losses for school districts. This would leave the state's general operating budget almost entirely committed to paying for the constitutional requirements of K-12 education, with no money left to pay for other government functions. Local government would lose an estimated $3.8 billion per year if these measures were fully implemented today.”

To read the full analysis, go to:

Amendment 60:

Amendment 60 will amend the Colorado Constitution to repeal the current voter-approved authority of local governments to keep property taxes above their constitutional limits; establish expiration dates for future voter-approved property tax increases; cut local property tax rates for public schools' operating expenses in half over ten years and replace this money with state funding each year; require publicly owned enterprises to pay property taxes and reduce local property tax rates to offset the new revenue; and provide new voting rights to certain property owners in Colorado and permit citizens to petition all local governments to reduce property taxes. This amendment will revoke prior voter approvals concerning the de-Brucing of property taxes.

In the first year, property taxes for school districts are expected to fall by $337 million, which the measure requires the state to replace. This represents a property tax reduction of the same amount for individuals and businesses. An average homeowner's property tax bill is projected to fall by $87 and the property taxes for an average commercial business are estimated to fall by $1,181. When the measure is fully implemented, the property tax reduction for school districts is estimated to increase the state's obligation for kindergarten through twelfth grade education (K-12) by $1.5 billion, which represents a property tax decrease of the same amount for individuals and businesses. An average homeowner will pay $376 less and an average commercial business will pay $5,106 less in property taxes annually. In future years, the actual amounts will differ as inflation and growth increase the size of the economy, but the comparable budget impacts on taxpayers and governments are expected to remain consistent over time. Cities, towns, counties, and special districts will also lose property taxes, but the amount will vary by locality.

Arguments For:

  1. Amendment 60 provides property tax relief for Coloradans in a tough economic climate without reducing K-12 education funding. For example, the measure will provide seniors who recently lost a property tax exemption with additional tax relief. Allowing business owners to keep more of their income may spur investment and help the economy recover more quickly. School funding is unchanged because the state is required to replace the local property taxes phased out by the amendment with state funding.
  2. Amendment 60 strengthens citizen control over local government taxes by setting tax expiration dates and requiring that an extension of an expiring tax be presented to the voters as a tax increase. The amendment also allows citizens to petition local governments to lower taxes, and it prevents unelected boards, such as the Denver Water Board, from imposing mandatory fees or taxes on property. In addition, limiting votes on property taxes to November elections, when voter turnout is typically higher, may lead to greater citizen awareness and participation.
  3. Amendment 60 removes a competitive advantage that publicly owned enterprises have over private businesses. Unlike private facilities, publicly owned enterprises, such as parking lots and golf courses, do not currently pay property taxes. The additional revenue will lower the local property tax rate, providing further relief for property owners in the district.

Arguments Against

  1. Amendment 60 overturns nearly two decades of voter-approved tax decisions that fund important services provided by counties, cities, school districts, and special districts. The amendment enables voters statewide, in this election, to reverse hundreds of decisions of local voters to fund services like fire and police protection, roads, parks and recreational facilities, water and sewer systems, and libraries. Local voters are best equipped to choose the level and type of services needed in their communities and the means to pay for those services.
  2. Amendment 60 will require the state to cut funding for many important services, which may result in job losses throughout Colorado. Because the state constitution requires that the state have a balanced budget and limits the ability of the legislature to raise taxes, every new dollar spent on education will be taken away from other services. The $1.5 billion increase in state K-12 education spending nearly equals the amount the state currently spends on courts, prisons, and human services. This amendment requires the state to spend so much more on public schools that these or other state functions will have to be cut or eliminated in order to keep the state budget balanced.
  3. Amendment 60 may leave many citizens worse off financially, depending on where they live. People who live in areas with few publicly owned enterprises, such as the eastern plains, will receive some property tax reductions, but may pay more in fees to use the services of public enterprises located elsewhere. For example, if the University of Colorado must pay property taxes, students statewide may pay more in tuition, but property owners in Boulder County will get most of the tax savings. Similarly, if Denver International Airport must pay property taxes, airline customers statewide may pay more in fees, but only property owners in Denver will get the property tax reduction.

Amendment 61:

Amendment 61 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to prohibit all new state government borrowing after 2010; prohibit new local government borrowing after 2010, unless approved by voters; limit the amount and length of time of local government borrowing; and require that tax rates be reduced after borrowing is fully repaid.

Amendment 61 places new restrictions on government borrowing. Currently, the state and local governments borrow money to build or improve public facilities like roads, buildings, and airports and repay the money over multiple years. Borrowing is also used for other purposes, such as financing loans for small businesses.

Beginning in 2011, Amendment 61 prohibits all future borrowing by state government and limits future borrowing by local governments, including cities, counties, school districts, special districts, and enterprises. The measure also requires that governments lower tax rates after borrowed money is fully repaid, even if the borrowing was repaid from a source other than taxes. In certain cases, governments borrow money on behalf of private entities. Because the private entities are solely responsible for repayment, it is unclear if this borrowing is covered
by the provisions of Amendment 61. Amendment 61 affects Colorado's state government by prohibiting any future borrowing and requiring a tax cut when certain borrowing is fully repaid. Current borrowing will be unaffected, but future projects, programs, and services that would have otherwise been financed through borrowing will have to be eliminated or paid for by increasing fees or using money currently budgeted for other purposes.

Arguments For

  1. Borrowing is expensive because it includes interest payments and fees. Limits are needed to help ensure that borrowing costs do not reduce money for public services in the future.
  2. Amendment 61 encourages fiscal restraint through a pay-as-you-go approach to government spending. This approach limits government from passing on debt to future generations.
  3. Because the public is responsible for repaying government borrowing through taxes and fees, voters should be asked before money is borrowed. The existing limits on government borrowing are not strict enough because the government can still borrow large amounts without voter approval. Amendment 61 requires any future local government borrowing to be submitted to voters for consideration at a November election.
  4. Amendment 61 reduces taxes when borrowing is fully repaid, giving individuals and businesses more money to spend. Tax rates should go down when borrowing is repaid because the government no longer needs money for the annual payments.

Arguments Against

  1. Borrowing is a crucial tool for financing large public investments such as prisons, schools, and water projects. Similar to private citizens using 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 other public infrastructure. Amendment 61 makes it harder to manage public finances and to respond in a timely manner to the needs of citizens.
  2. 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, hospitals, and water treatment plants. These public investments are needed by communities to operate and to attract residents and businesses. In addition, the measure may reduce private sector jobs, for instance businesses may be awarded fewer construction contracts.
  3. Amendment 61 places the full burden of paying for public buildings built to last 30 years or more on today's taxpayers. Also, Amendment 61 may force governments to set aside money for several years before construction can begin on a new facility. As a result, current taxpayers may never benefit from a facility they paid to construct. Taxpayers may realize a greater benefit from borrowing than from a tax-rate reduction.
  4. Some governments will face serious financial disruptions as a result of Amendment 61. For example, the Colorado unemployment fund may be unable to pay unemployment benefits for a period of time if the state is no longer able to borrow to pay for benefits. Also, starting in 2011, school districts that rely on short-term borrowing may have cash flow disruptions until spring tax collections are received. These districts will have to consider options such as reducing or suspending teacher pay, selling buildings, or closing schools.

Proposition 101:

Proposition 101 proposes amending Colorado statutes to reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent in 2011, and to 3.5 percent gradually over time; reduce or eliminate taxes and fees on vehicle purchases, registrations, leases, and rentals over the next four years; eliminate all state and local taxes and fees on telecommunication services, except 911 fees; and require voter approval to create or increase fees on vehicles and telecommunication services.

Local governments affected by the measure include school districts, cities, counties, and special districts. Some examples of special districts include recreation, fire, water, sewer, and public transportation districts. The money collected in taxes and fees pays for different services depending on the local government. Most of the money is used for education, public safety, roads, trash service, and parks and recreation. State law requires that school districts be reimbursed by the state for most of their loss in tax collections. The state government will collect less money from sales taxes, income taxes, and telecommunication fees. The state spends 96 percent of its general operating budget on: preschool through higher education; health care; prisons; the courts; and programs that help low-income, elderly, and disabled people. Proposition 101 will reduce the amount of money available to pay for the state's general operating budget by an estimated 6 percent in the first year and by an estimated 23 percent once fully implemented.

Arguments For

  1. Allowing citizens and businesses to keep more of their own money helps the economy. A family with a yearly income of $55,000 could have their taxes and fees cut by $313 in the first year of Proposition 101 and $708 per year when it is fully implemented. Businesses will also benefit from the cut in taxes and fees, allowing them to invest in their companies and create new jobs. In addition, people who buy or lease cars will save even more from lower sales taxes. Reducing taxes and fees helps businesses and lower- and middle-income families who are struggling in this difficult economy. Consumer spending and business investment tend to increase when the tax burden is lower.
  2. Proposition 101 will require state and local governments to eliminate unnecessary spending. Governments will look more closely at how they spend money, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used in the best and most efficient way. State and local governments already spend about $40 billion a year, which amounts to an average of $20,000 per household in the state. The amount of spending by governments in the state has increased by about 14 percent since 1990, even after accounting for inflation and population growth. Even with Proposition 101's reductions in tax and fee collections, revenue to governments will continue to grow, although at a slower rate. Governments can prioritize and fund the most important services with less money by making better choices about how they spend taxpayer money.
  3. Proposition 101 gives people a voice in decisions about fees on phones and vehicles. Rather than asking voters for more money for transportation projects, the state recently increased vehicle registration fees by about $220 million, an average of approximately $44 per car. The state did this even though registration fees exceed what it costs the government to process vehicle registrations. Proposition 101 will require governments to seek voter approval for more money rather than adding more fees. Further, some telecommunication fees raise the cost of basic services for everyone but help only a small part of the state's population. Proposition 101 simplifies and eliminates these fees — lowering all vehicle registration fees to a flat $10 per year and ending state and local taxes and fees, except 911 fees, on phone and cable bills.

Arguments Against

  1. Colorado's economic success depends on services that governments provide, such as education and a safe transportation system. Proposition 101 will force cuts to these services that people rely on for a high quality of life and that businesses need to succeed. Services that have already been reduced because of the economic downturn, such as schools, colleges, prisons, firefighters and police, and water and sewer systems, will be cut further. These cuts could further weaken the already slow economy, reduce jobs, and, over time, hurt the quality of the state's workforce. Rural economies may also be affected because fees that help provide phone and Internet service for rural areas will be Eliminated. The state's operating budget is estimated to be cut by $1.6 billion, or about 23 percent, when the measure is fully implemented, an amount greater than what the state currently spends on prisons, courts, and the Colorado State Patrol combined. Further, local governments will have about $1 billion less. State government spending as a percentage of the economy is already third lowest among all states and combined state and local government spending is eighth lowest.
  2. Proposition 101 will hurt the ability of the state and local communities to maintain already inadequate roads and bridges and provide public transportation. Studies show that Colorado needs more than twice as much money each year than it currently spends just to maintain existing roads and bridges. Proposition 101 would cut state transportation funding by an estimated 28 percent. In 2009 alone, the state and local governments
    maintained more than 193,000 lane miles of roadway and 8,000 bridges. The state also snow-plowed and sanded 5.6 million miles of highway, repaired 77,000 street signs, and monitored 278 avalanche paths. Public health and safety may also be affected due to fewer resources for emergency medical services, vehicle emission programs, and road maintenance.
  3. Cuts to government services may result in hardship for families who have to pay for services that governments will no longer be able to afford. For example, tuition will likely increase, putting college out of reach for many households. Higher-income people, who are better able to absorb these cost increases, will benefit the most from the reduced taxes and fees in Proposition 101. Low- and middle-income people will be less able to absorb the costs. Proposition 101 also eliminates fees that pay for services to help those with lower incomes and people who are deaf, speech impaired, or blind communicate within society.

Additional Information:

Websites arguing AGAINST the three measures:

Websites arguing FOR the three measures:

The following lists may not be comprehensive but provide a representative sample to date of official supporters and opponents of each issue.

Who Supports the Three Measures:

  • Americans for Prosperity
  • Campaign for Liberty
  • Colorado Union of Taxpayers

Who Opposes the Three Measures:

  • The Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System
  • Adams County Economic Development (ACED)
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW) Colorado
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT) - Colorado
  • American Institute of Architects, Colorado Component
  • American Planning Association - Colorado Chapter
  • American Society of Civil Engineers - Southern Colorado Branch
  • American Subcontractors Association of Colorado
  • Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners
  • Arts for Colorado
  • Arvada Chamber of Commerce
  • Arvada Economic Development Association
  • Ask-A-Nurse
  • Associated General Contractors of Colorado
  • Aurora Economic Development Council
  • Autism Society of Colorado
  • Avista Adventist Hospital
  • Avon Town Council
  • Beacon Point Metropolitan District
  • Bell Action Network
  • Bell Policy Center
  • Bella Energy
  • Boulder Chamber
  • Boulder City Council
  • Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Board of Education
  • Brighton City Council
  • Broomfield Chamber of Commerce
  • Campaign for a Strong Colorado
  • Cañon City Area Fire Protection District
  • Castle Rock Economic Development Council
  • CCB Partners
  • Centennial City Council
  • Centennial Council of Neighborhoods
  • Centura Health
  • Centura Health at Home
  • Cherry Creek School District
  • Cherry Hills Village
  • Citizens Project
  • City of Montrose
  • Citywide Banks of Colorado, Inc.
  • Clinica Family Health Services
  • Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Colorado Association of Family and Children’s Agencies
  • Colorado Association of Family Child Care
  • Colorado Association of Home Builders
  • Colorado Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
  • Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors
  • Colorado Association of Medical Equipment Services (CAMES)
  • Colorado Association of Realtors
  • Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE)
  • Colorado Bankers Association
  • Colorado Bar Association
  • Colorado BioScience Association
  • Colorado Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Colorado Children's Campaign
  • Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition
  • Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Colorado Commission on Higher Education
  • Colorado Common Cause
  • Colorado Community Health Network
  • Colorado Conservation Voters
  • Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
  • Colorado Contractors Association
  • Colorado Counties Inc.
  • Colorado Environmental Coalition
  • Colorado Gaming Association
  • Colorado Health Foundation
  • Colorado Hospital Association
  • Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Colorado Interfaith Voices for Justice
  • Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees
  • Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers Association
  • Colorado Municipal League
  • Colorado Nonprofit Association
  • Colorado Petroleum Association
  • Colorado Restaurant Association
  • Colorado Rural Health Center
  • Colorado Senior Lobby
  • Colorado Ski Country USA
  • Colorado Springs Education Association
  • Colorado Springs School Dist. 11
  • Colorado State Fire Chiefs' Association
  • Colorado Telecommunications Association
  • Colorado Water Congress
  • Colorado Workers for Innovation and New Solutions (WINS)
  • County Sheriff's of Colorado
  • County Treasurer's of Colorado
  • CSIA, Colorado’s Technology Association
  • Cunningham Fire Protection District
  • Democratic Party of Denver, Executive Committee
  • Denver Broncos Football Club
  • Denver City Council
  • Denver Institute of Urban Studies
  • Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
  • Denver Public Schools
  • Dolores School District RE-4A
  • Douglas County Board of County Commissioners
  • Douglas County Business Alliance
  • Douglas County School District
  • Dove Valley Metropolitan District
  • Downtown Denver, Inc.
  • Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs
  • DUS Metropolitan District No. 1
  • Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado
  • Early Childhood Summit
  • Eastern Colorado Services for the Developmentally Disabled, Inc.
  • El Paso County Board of Health
  • El Paso County Commissioners
  • Emergency Medical Services Association Colorado
  • ERA Shields Real Estate
  • Estes Park Medical Center
  • Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Family Development Center of Steamboat Springs
  • Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees
  • Fort Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Fountain Sanitation District
  • Four Corners Financial, LLC
  • Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors
  • Golden Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand County Board of Realtors
  • Grand Valley Fire Protection District
  • Great Education Colorado
  • Greeley Chamber of Commerce
  • Green Industries of Colorado (GreenCO)
  • Havana Business Improvement District
  • Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center
  • High Plains Metropolitan District
  • Highlands Ranch Chamber of Commerce
  • Home Builders Association of Metro Denver
  • Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs
  • Housing Colorado
  • Impact on Education
  • Independent Bankers of Colorado
  • Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
  • Jeffco Public Schools
  • Jefferson County Child Care Association
  • Kline Alvarado Veio, P.C.
  • Land Title Guarantee Company
  • Larimer Center for Mental Health
  • League of Women Voters of Colorado
  • League of Women Voters of La Plata County
  • Littleton Adventist Hospital
  • Lloyd Levy Consulting, LLC
  • Longmont Area Economic Council
  • Longmont Association of Realtors
  • Longmont City Council
  • Loveland Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center
  • Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors
  • Lower Fountain Metropolitan Sewage Disposal District
  • Lutheran Advocacy Ministry - Colorado
  • Manzanola Board of Education
  • Mapleton Public Board of Education
  • McWhinney
  • Melissa Memorial Hospital
  • Mendez Consulting Inc.
  • Mental Health America - Colorado
  • Mental Health America - Pueblo
  • Mercy Regional Medical Center
  • Mesa Bounce Company, LLC
  • Metro Denver Aviation Coalition
  • Metro North Chamber of Commerce
  • Metropolitan State College of Denver Board of Trustees
  • Minturn Town Council
  • North Range Behavioral Health
  • Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance
  • Northglenn City Council
  • OrthoColorado Hospital
  • Padres/Jovenes Unidos
  • Park Hospital District
  • Parker Adventist Hospital
  • Penrose-St. Francis Health Services
  • Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority
  • Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority
  • Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
  • Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado
  • Porter Adventist Hospital
  • Portland Cement Association - Rocky Mountain Cement Council
  • Poudre School District
  • Pueblo Community Health Center, Inc.
  • Pueblo Human Relations Commission
  • Pueblo Rural Fire Fighters, I.A.F.F. Local 3319
  • Pure Brand Communications, LLC
  • PV Water and Sanitation Metropolitan District
  • Radius Media Holdings
  • Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Rio Grande County Board of County Commissioners
  • Rio Grande Water Conservation District
  • Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
  • Salzman Real Estate Services, Ltd
  • San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center
  • Scientific and Cultural Facilities District
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Colorado
  • South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce
  • South Metro Water Supply Authority
  • South Suburban Park and Recreation District
  • Special District Association of Colorado
  • St. Anthony Central Hospital
  • St. Anthony North Hospital
  • St. Anthony Summit Medical Center
  • St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center
  • St. Mary's Hospital & Medical Center, Inc.
  • St. Thomas More Hospital
  • Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association
  • Steamboat Springs School District RE-2
  • Stonegate Village Metropolitan District
  • Terracon Consultants, Inc.
  • The Arc of Colorado
  • The Resource Exchange
  • The Women's Lobby of Colorado
  • Town of Frederick
  • Town of Lyons
  • U.S. Green Building Council of Colorado
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW) Local 7
  • University of Colorado Board of Regents
  • Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority
  • Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region
  • Vail Town Council
  • Van Gilder Insurance
  • West Chamber Serving Jefferson County
  • Westminster City Council
  • Wheat Ridge Fire Protection District
  • Willows Water District
  • Yampa Valley Medical Center
  • Yuma County Republicans