Proposition CC asks Coloradans to forgo TABOR refunds for education, transportation funding

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

Colorado ballot measure Proposition CC will ask Coloradans whether they want to forgo the annual refunds currently in place under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) statute and have those dollars used for state-wide education and transportation funding.

Currently, under the TABOR Amendment the state may only take in a certain level of revenue from taxation. That level is set through a formula that takes into account population change and the rate of inflation. When the economy is performing well, as it is currently, the state generally garners more tax revenue than the formula allows, meaning every Coloradan who files state income taxes receives a refund check proportional to how much they paid. The refund amounts are generally less than $100 per taxpayer, per year, according to information from the state.

Proposition CC would eliminate those refunds to taxpayers, meaning during times of economic expansion the state would be able to retain the excess revenue. If approved, those excess funds would be required to be spent in the areas of education, both K-12 and higher education, and transportation. A report by the Colorado Legislative Council estimated that, if CC is approved by voters, $310 million in 2019-20 and $342 million in 2020-21 will remain in state coffers.

Monies retained under Prop CC would be required to be split equally, 33.3% each, in the areas of public K-12 education, public higher education and transportation. Thus, the estimates of retained revenue would equate to a little north of $103 million for each bucket this year and $114 million for each bucket next year. The ballot measure would require the state to hire a private auditor to examine and report on how the excess funds were spent.

Support and opposition to Prop CC usually splits along party lines with Democrats and progressives being largely supportive of the measure and Republicans and conservatives largely opposed.

Democratic Governor Jared Polis, the State House and Senate Democrats, Great Education Colorado, the National Education Association, activist Pat Stryker, and The Colorado State University System Board of Governors have come out in support of CC. Individuals and organizations opposed to CC include Republican Congressman Ken Buck, State Representative Perry Buck, former Governor Bill Owens, former-Senator Hank Brown, Colorado Rising Action, the Independence Institute and Colorado House Republicans.

Polis has been vocal in support of Prop CC, and his office released a statement that read, “Gov. Polis supports allowing the state to keep the tax revenue it already collects. This common-sense policy doesn’t alter the right of citizens to vote on taxes, but allows Colorado to keep pace with a growing economy.”

Supporters of Prop CC say that, due to growth in the state, more money is needed to make investments in public education and transportation infrastructure and this ballot measure will provide much-needed funding in those areas; they argue this is a manner in which the state can gain additional funds without raising tax rates. 

Opponents of Prop CC argue this measure is a tax increase even if it is not a tax-rate increase, as the state government will keep taxpayers’ money that would otherwise have been refunded. Opponents argue this measure will help feed the continued expansion of government and voters have rejected several tax increases in recent elections and have signaled they want the state government to better prioritize how taxpayer dollars are spent.

Michael Fields, director of the right-leaning Colorado Rising Action group, said in a statement, “Our state budget is going up by $1 billion again this year, but that’s not enough for some legislators. The reason the last six statewide tax hikes were defeated is because voters want the legislature to prioritize the existing budget. Setting up a new slush fund with our TABOR refunds is definitely not the solution Coloradans are looking for.”

A “yes” vote on Proposition CC is a vote in favor of allowing the state to keep excess revenue retained above the TABOR limit to spend on public K-12 and higher education and on transportation.

A “no” vote on Proposition CC is a vote in keeping the law as it currently stands, where taxpayers receive annual refund checks in the years the state receives tax revenue in excess of the TABOR limit.

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