Opponents of three tax-slashing amendments have raised $5.7 million so far to defeat the measures, with the Colorado Education Association and its national parent among the leading contributors.
CEA has contributed $600,000 to the campaign group Coloradans for Responsible Reform. The National Education Association has contributed $400,000.
The two are among a long and well-heeled list of corporations, law firms, unions, banks, trade associations and other groups that have contributed.
The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce gave $500,000, the Colorado Contractors Association has put in $300,000 and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association of New York City donated $250,000.
Entities that have contributed $100,000 or more include the Service Employees International Union, the Colorado Bankers Association, Wells Fargo, the Colorado Association of Realtors, HealthOne, MDC Holdings, Liberty Media, the Colorado Health Foundation, CH2M Hill, the Southeast Business Partnership and the Kaiser Foundation.
The three measures are proposed constitutional amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101.
Amendment 60 would require school districts to halve their property tax rates by 2020, not including taxes levied for debt, such as bond issues. The state would be required to cover the lost revenue. Future property tax rate increases would expire after 10 years, and extensions would be subject to voter approval. Recent legislative actions and court rulings such as the 2007 property tax “freeze” would be repealed. Text
Amendment 61 would ban all forms of borrowing by state government, all local government borrowing would have to be approved by voters, new debt would have to be repaid within 10 years and taxes would have to be reduced after a debt is repaid. Text
Proposition 101, a proposed change to state law, would reduce specific ownership taxes on vehicles to $2 for new vehicles and $1 for used ones, limit title and license fees to $10 a year and abolish taxes on vehicle rentals and leases. The state income tax rate would be reduced from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent over several years, and telecommunications taxes, except for a 911 fee, would be abolished. Text
Coloradans for Responsible Reform is devoting the bulk of its war chest to advertising, under the general theme of “Don’t hurt Colorado.” It brands the proposals as “The ugly three.”
John Lay, a veteran economic development executive who’s working for the group, told an Aspen-area meeting this week that the group plans to spend $4 million on TV ads over the next two months. “You are going to become very tired of us, starting Friday of this week,” he said, according to the Aspen Daily News. (Audio of the group’s new radio ad.)
Lay also was quoted as saying that polling by his organization shows a strong level of support for the initiatives now. “Chances are very good that two out of the three of these will pass,” Lay told the meeting of managers of local health and human services organizations in El Jebel. (Details of the poll are included in the Daily News story.)
In an e-mail Friday evening, campaign spokesman Dan Hopkins said the poll Lay mentioned is more than a month old and that the campaign won’t be doing new polling for a few weeks. A poll reported in The Denver Post over the weekend found slim support for Proposition 101 and voters undecided on the other two measures.
The group that supports passage of the three measures is CO Tax Reforms. It reports $12,713 in contributions, $5,191 spent and $7,522 on hand.
The organization is a small group of anti-tax activists with links to Doug Bruce, author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Several provisions of the three proposals seek to close TABOR loopholes that supporters believe have been opened by the legislature and the Colorado Supreme Court.
The largest contributions to CO Tax Reforms were made by just two people. Seeme Hasan of Pueblo and her son, Muhammad A. Hasan of Denver, gave $5,000 each. The Hasan Family Foundation was in the news earlier this year for the $300,000 it gave to former congressman Scott McInnis to write a series of articles on water policy.
It turned out that McInnis used another author’s work in his articles without acknowledging that, and the ensuring plagiarism controversy contributed to McInnis’ defeat by Don Maes in the Republican gubernatorial primary.