GLENWOOD SPRINGS - If the economic downturn of the past couple of years was unplanned, then the trio of tax- and debt-limiting ballot initiatives that are on the Nov. 2 ballot in Colorado would amount to a "voter-approved recession."
That's according to an assessment of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 by Rich Jones, director of policy and research for the Denver-based, non-partisan Bell Policy Center.
Jones was the featured presenter at a forum sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Tuesday evening at the Glenwood Community Center. The forum was intended to explain the impacts of the ballot measures, which have been tabbed as the "Bad Three" by opponents.
"Our sense is that the cuts that would result from the passage of any of these three measures will really threaten economic growth in this state," Jones said.
While the recent recession has resulted in the loss of about 110,000 jobs in Colorado, Jones said, the combined impact of 60, 61 and 101 would result in another 73,000 direct jobs lost, half of them in the private sector, according to the Bell Policy Center's analysis of the measures.
That would include approximately 8,000 K-12 teaching positions, he said.
Combined, the measures are expected to cut $5.5 billion annually from state and local government revenues, according to the Bell analysis.
Jones said the measures may be appealing to voters who only read the ballot title and description, without realizing the impacts to everything from highway and bridge construction to local schools.
"These three combined would absolutely devastate public education in Colorado," said Shannon Pelland, assistant superintendent of business for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1, one of four panelists invited to the forum to explain the local impacts.
For Re-1 schools, because the district receives about 85 percent of its funding from property taxes, which don't come in until the end of the fiscal year, it must borrow money from the state for cash-flow needs during the school year. That would be prohibited under Amendment 61.
"We'll essentially be out of money to continue operating come January 2011," Pelland said.
Other panelists making similar cases against the ballot initiatives were Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel, Glenwood Rural Fire District Board President Bill Livingston and Colorado Mountain College Director of Finance Linda English.
In addition to most local governments, numerous statewide business and government associations have come out against the measures, including the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado Ski Country USA, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the Colorado Municipal League and the State Board of Education.