Ballot campaign to suspend Colorado’s TABOR revenue caps ends

Concerned about ballot fatigue and suffering from a lack of fundraising, organizers of the Colorado Priorities campaign to pass a statewide de-Brucing ballot initiative blunting the impact of the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights ended their efforts for the 2016 election on Tuesday.

The proposal would have allowed the state government to keep any revenue it collected above the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limit over the next 10 years and put it to prescribed uses — at least 35 percent toward education, at least 35 percent toward transportation and anything else toward mental-health and senior services.

Doing so would have eliminated the possibility of TABOR refunds that otherwise would go to statewide taxpayers when revenues exceed the caps.

However, organizers said they became increasingly worried about getting their message out during an election that could feature as many as 10 other ballot initiatives, as well as presidential and U.S. Senate races in this state.

Also, backers “were unable to raise the large amount of money necessary to gather enough signatures to qualify,” noted Lisa Weil, executive director of campaign supporter Great Education Colorado, noted in an email to her organization.

However, backers said they plan to look at bringing the measure back at a future election when competition for resources and publicity isn’t so fierce.

“Though we are suspending this campaign, the challenges facing our state and the need to invest in these priorities continue to grow,” said a joint statement issued by campaign co-chairs Dan Ritchie and Al Yates. “We are committed to continue working with the thousands of Coloradans, businesses and organizations from every corner of the state to ensure we find a solution for investing in Colorado’s priorities.”

Colorado Priorities leaders said the suspension of the campaign comes despite polling numbers that have indicated 61 percent support for the measure, which came out of the Building a Better Colorado statewide discussions.

Jon Caldara, the president of the Independence Institute and the most vocal critic of the effort, said, however, that his organization’s polls showed Colorado Priorities gaining just 44 percent support. And he said that he was disappointed at the decision to end the campaign. He said the ballot battle would have given him an opportunity to show how much state residents don’t want officials to keep more taxpayer revenues, especially when Medicaid spending is going up faster than any other part of state government.

“I’m sad. I was really looking forward to burying them on this one,” Caldara said.

Ed Sealover covers government, health care, tourism, airlines, hospitality and restaurants for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Capitol Business” blog. Phone: 303-803-9229.

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