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Editorial boards at Colorado’s two largest newspapers oppose Prop CC, but for different reasons

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By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

Editorial boards for newspapers in the state’s two largest cities have both come out in opposition to a ballot measure that asks voters to allow the state government to permanently retain excess revenue that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers.

The Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial Monday opposing the ballot proposal, while the Denver Post opposed it in a Thursday editorial.

Proposition CC, which was referred to the ballot by the legislature, would remove state government’s spending growth cap. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) currently requires state government to refund excess revenue collected above the state’s spending cap back to taxpayers. 

If the proposal passes, that cap would be removed, state government would be allowed to retain all revenue and taxpayers would no longer see TABOR-granted refunds.

The Denver Post’s editorial board on Thursday called the measure “fatally flawed” and asked voters to “send this complex problem back to the General Assembly for another try.”

The editorial acknowledges the usefulness of the extra revenue state government would retain, but criticizes how lawmakers chose to allocate the excess funds between K-12 education, higher education and transportation.

Proposition CC would allow state government to collect an estimated $310 million in additional revenue in fiscal year 2021 and $342 million in fiscal year 2022. Those funds would be split evenly three ways between K-12 education, higher education and transportation.

For K-12 education, the editorial says the “money will be doled out to school districts on a per-pupil basis, equally across all districts,” which would “only increase existing disparities” between wealthier and less well-off school districts instead of funding according to a district’s needs.

The editorial also criticizes how the excess revenue allocated for higher education would be put into a pot that would then be distributed according to the legislature’s wishes.

“We fear it’ll be spent on pet projects instead of on reducing the cost of higher education for the next generation of Colorado students,” it reads.

“Yes, the state does need this additional revenue,” it says. “But it’s also critical that this money is spent like the limited resource it is given voters’ unwillingness to provide alternative revenue sources.”

The conservative editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette opposes Proposition CC for very different reasons, citing lawmakers’ proclivity to irresponsibly spend taxpayer dollars. 

“The political class can never get enough of the private sector’s money,” the Monday editorial says. “That is why politicians are trying to con voters into passing Proposition CC in November.”

The Gazette notes that despite high revenues from a booming economy and from increasing fees, “politicians refuse to live within their means,” pointing to increased spending on social programs during the last legislature.

“Proposition CC would gut TABOR forever, giving politicians the authority to keep all revenues exceeding a commonsense formula – established entirely by voters – that keeps government spending within reasonable boundaries,” the editorial reads.