If approved by voters in November, Denver Measure 2A would, among other things, remove property tax revenue limitations imposed by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), resulting in a forever and unlimited tax increase for Denver property owners.
It’s more than obvious who wants this forever tax increase passed. Denver Mayor Hancock and his administration have been out making the case for homeowners to balance the city’s budget for them by raising their own taxes. The Denver Post was editorializing in favor of the idea before it was even referred to the ballot. The Denver Business Journal has reported on support for 2A from the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver (though oddly they couldn’t seem to find any opposition to report on, but more on that later). According to their September campaign finance report, the issue committee behind the Yes on 2A campaign, Moving Denver Forward, has received over $400,000 in donations to help put the squeeze on Denver property owners. The list of donors reads like a political class who’s who of bigger government advocates. $25,000 from the Denver firefighters union, another $25,000 each from the Denver Library Friends Foundation and Democratic Party funder Tim Gill, $10,000 each from VISIT Denver (the convention lobby) and left wing politcal funder Pat Stryker. Even the Teamsters Union managed to scrape up $5,000 for the cause.
Contributions from real estate developers and construction firms run six figures.
In contrast, the issue committee opposing Measure 2A, No Blank Check 2012, has raised a little over $2,500.
So a voter looking for information, or a reporter looking for a favorable comment should have little trouble finding the “pro” side of Measure 2A. But who is out there opposing this thing?
The Independence Institute to begin with. My work for the Institute on why 2A is a bad idea can be found here and here in the Denver Huffington Post, and my recent “pro/con” series with Mayor Hancock in the Wash Park Profile neighborhood newspaper is here:
Measure 2A would also fall hard on senior citizen homeowners living on fixed incomes. Their property taxes will go up, while their income remains flat. The Hancock administration tacitly acknowledges this in their proposal to spend the new tax money, which includes (the phrase): “Increase the city’s property-tax credit from $186/year to $372 for 4,000 low-income senior citizens and persons with disabilities.”
Since this is new general fund money (discretionary spending), there is absolutely no guarantee that this is what it will actually go towards. Even so, what they leave out is that other low-income and fixed-income senior citizens will pay for the tax credits for those 4,000 people.
Writing on behalf of the Independence Institute, Joshua Sharf makes the case against Measure 2A in the Denver Post here. Writes Joshua:
The mayor’s proposal assumes that rising home values necessarily mean rising incomes. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Denver’s weekly income fell nearly 5 percent in 2011. The mayor’s mill levy override scheme would mean an immediate property tax increase of 10 percent for households who are still finding it difficult to make ends meet.
Joshua has also written on Measure 2A at the WhoSaidYouSaid blog.
Measure 2A is also opposed by former Denver City Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt. Here’s what Gelt, a liberal Democrat, had to say in her Denver Post column:
Personnel costs comprise 70 percent of Denver’s operating budget and they escalate yearly. The current proposal restores employee furloughs but avoids long-term systemic changes to an arcane personnel system.
Gelt also had this to say recently on her regular appearance on Colorado Public Television 12:
Denver voters have a choice. Approve a blank check that never expires for higher taxes, or send Mayor Hancock back to the drawing board to craft a balanced initiative with a mix of reduced expenses and tax increases. 2A is bad for jobs, small business and homeowners. Vote NO.
Ben Gelt runs the No Blank Check 2012 campaign, which opposes Measure 2A and whose website states:
There is no limit to how much the City will collect through this tax increase. When property values go up, so will the tax revenue generated. The City ignored its task force by asking for higher taxes with no ceiling, prior to reducing expenses.
The Glendale/Cherry Creek Chronicle, a Denver neighborhood newspaper, recently editorialized against Measure 2A:
The voters are told Denver has a structural deficit which means even in bountiful times the city’s revenues can never meet its expenses. The obvious conclusion to the existence of a structural deficit is that Denver city government is unable to stop spending money it does not have. Why in the world would anyone want to give such a government $68 million per year more to squander?
In a Denver Business Journal guest opinion piece (hidden behind a subscriber pay wall) Tyler Smith and Scott Peterson from the Denver Metropolitan Commercial Association of Realtors (DMCAR) urge readers to “Defeat ballot measures that raise taxes” including Measure 2A.
And in the Denver Post’s Sunday Perspective section, Mark Ver Hoeve makes a compelling case against 2A:
For 2013, Mayor Michael Hancock has proposed a 3.9 percent increase in the General Fund, the city’s operating budget, or $964 million, up from $926 million in 2012. Tax revenue for 2013 is projected to be $945 million, a 3.5 percent increase. That’s right: Tax revenues are up and higher than the previous year’s budget, but the city wants to spend more.
And finally, the No on Denver 2A facebook page can be found here.