Less than two weeks before ballots are mailed to Colorado voters, the campaign advocating for a Yes vote on one of two statewide measures in the 2019 election is officially up and running.
Supporters of Proposition CC — which would authorize the state to keep tax revenues in excess of a decades-old formula instead of automatically refunding it to voters — gathered at Metropolitan State University of Denver today, October 2, for a formal campaign kickoff.
"For too long, an antiquated budget formula has really tilted the playing field against our kids, and our roads and bridges, in a very arbitrary way," Governor Jared Polis told a small crowd in MSU Denver's Student Success Center. "I'll be voting for Prop CC because it'll help us begin to invest in roads and bridges, and invest in our schools, with no new taxes."
By eliminating the revenue cap approved by voters in a 1992 constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), state budget analysts project that Prop CC would allow the state to collect and spend an additional $541 million to $1.7 billion over the next three years. A companion bill passed by the legislature this year requires that revenue to be split three ways, with transportation, K-12 education and higher education each receiving an equal share.
Prop CC is a statewide version of what has become known in Colorado as a "de-Brucing" measure, named after controversial TABOR architect Douglas Bruce. The vast majority of Colorado cities, counties and towns have passed de-Brucing measures over the past 27 years — including many rural, conservative-leaning jurisdictions, as Polis noted Wednesday.
"In the most conservative areas of the state, they've said, 'Look, rather than try to raise taxes, why don't you just let us not raise taxes and spend what we already collect?'" Polis said. "It's just common sense."
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At least one early poll has shown Colorado voters leaning toward approving Prop CC, which was referred to the 2019 ballot by a vote of the state legislature in April. State Senator Kevin Priola, the lone Republican to vote for the measure's referral, spoke at Wednesday's event to reiterate his support.
"I've defended TABOR all my adult life," said Priola. "Part of the reason TABOR passed is that it had the direct-democracy component — to go to the voters and let them make the decisions. If they want to invest in infrastructure and education, without raising new taxes…this is that opportunity for the voters in November."
Most of Priola's fellow Republicans, however, oppose the measure, and a coalition of conservative groups launched the No on CC campaign earlier this year. Campaign-finance reports filed with the Colorado Secretary of State show that Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing advocacy group funded by the Koch family, has spent more than $462,000 since June on behalf of an issue committee registered to oppose Prop CC.
But while the No on CC campaign may have a head start, plenty of money has flowed into the Yes campaign's coffers ahead of its launch, too. Yes on Prop CC, also known as Coloradans for Prosperity, has received over $1.7 million in donations since late August, according to campaign-finance reports. Its top contributors include billionaire Democratic donor Pat Stryker and Denver philanthropist Daniel Ritchie, who have each donated $350,000.