The Paw Print
Three ballot measures that threaten funding for higher education will appear on the state ballot this coming November.
Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 each propose tax-reducing measures, which will force Colorado governments to make cuts in services and budgets. The passage of these bills will affect all state government services, including higher education, to the tune of nearly $3 billion a year.
Bill Mansheim, the vice president of the Office of Finance and Governmental Relations for Adams State College, foresees serious problems for higher education if these ballot measures pass in the November election. He refers to the ballot measures as his “forced retirement plan.”
“If the measures were to pass and be upheld in court, services in this state would be unrecognizable,” he said.
Amendment 60 proposes limiting property taxes and reversing recent tax laws that increased taxes, restoring the limits from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Enterprises, such as public institutions of higher education, would have to pay property taxes on the assessed value of their property, most likely leading to a spike in the cost of tuition and student fees in order to offset the new expenditures. However, local property taxes would decrease, resulting in less money being put toward the quantity and quality of local services, such as roads and public transportation, where institutions of higher education are located.
Amendment 61 would ban any kind government borrowing, effectively stopping construction projects across the state while also prohibiting local governments from distributing bonds without approval from voters. It would limit borrowing to 10 years, and require state governments to lower taxes once the debt is paid.
Amendment 61 would also keep institutions of higher education from borrowing money, because they are an instrumentality of the State. Public colleges would be unable to finance new educational facilities, classroom space, housing, and student centers. This would have a ripple effect on other businesses that rely on government contracts, such as construction companies, and potentially increase unemployment. College students would also be affected, as it would likely lead to higher tuition and fees associated with attending college.
Proposition 101 would reduce state income taxes to 3.5 percent over time (down from the current 4.63 percent), reduce fees and taxes on vehicles, such as purchases and registrations, and would eliminate all taxes and fees on phones except for 911 service. The group Coloradans for Responsible Reform estimates that the combined cost to state and local governments will be $2.9 billion annually.
The state of Colorado has mandates on certain services and how much financial support they are eligible to receive from the state. When all of those services, such as state-run prisons, are accounted for, the only discretionary things left are higher education and human services.
“If these measures pass, it would effectively privatize higher education in the state of Colorado,” said Mansheim. “I don’t see how this college (ASC) could continue as a public institution.”
The decreased state tax revenue that would be caused by the successful passing of these three ballot measures would severely cut into the funding given to higher education from the state of Colorado.
Adams State, like other public institutions of higher education in Colorado, would be forced to raise tuition to cover the loss of financial support from the state.