DENVER– Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s (RMFU) board of directors has voted to support Colorado’s Referenda C&D as means of returning the state to fiscal soundness.
Economic recession, combined with September 11 attacks caused state revenues to drop 16 percent since the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment was passed. TABOR not only reduced revenues available for Colorado programs such as education, state roads and bridges, each time revenues were reduced, caps on spending were reduced at the same rate.
“Without passage of these referenda, the state will have to begin making even more massive cuts next year in funding for schools, roads and healthcare, despite the state’s growing population,” said John Stencel, RMFU president. “Colorado will need $3.1 billion over the next five years to restore services that have been cut, including Medicaid, higher education, and vital transportation projects.”
Referenda C&D asks voters to forego their TABOR taxpayer refunds for five years and lets the state earmark the money for education, healthcare, transportation and retirement plans for firemen and policemen. In the sixth year or 2011, if revenue exceeds the amount the state can spend, the first $100 million would go toward bonding for construction and other repair work on schools and roads. Also in 2011, the income tax rate would drop from its current 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent and remain.
Due in part to TABOR, Colorado ranks dead last among states in immunization rates for children two and under, 49th in overall Medicaid coverage, and 49th in spending on K-12 education as a percentage of the state’s wealth. In addition, funding for Colorado’s colleges and universities has been cut 22 percent, while state support per student has fallen from $5,228 to $3,511. Family farmers and ranchers and rural communities are particularly hard hit by the recent large budget cuts in Cooperative Extension, agricultural research through Colorado State University, and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
“Referenda C&D are moderate proposals that represent a compromise between Gov. Bill Owens and the Democratic legislative leadership,” said Stencel. “RMFU is supporting this commonsense approach to solving the state’s budget crunch and returning some of Colorado’s basic services.”