Tax defeats could bode ill for clinic
Post Independent Staff
David Adamson is worried. As the executive director of Mountain Family Health Center, he’s afraid if referendums C and D don’t pass, the clinic’s future could be in jeopardy. With about 100 people a day coming through the front door, 60 percent of whom do not have health insurance, not only could it lose state funding but Medicaid reimbursement could be decreased, Adamson said.
“This clinic is largely due to tobacco settlement (money),” Adamson said. “The governor may have to declare a fiscal emergency, and it could be taken away.”
Colorado will receive $2.6 billion as part of the $246 billion settlement with tobacco companies in 1998. The state legislature directed the money be spent on health care and smoking cessation programs.
On Wednesday, state Rep. Bernie Buescher from Mesa County visited the health clinic. Buescher was in his hometown of Grand Junction with the Joint Budget Committee this week wrestling with the state budget.
The state, Buescher said, will have to cut $492 million in order to meet requirements of the TABOR amendment and the balanced budget act. That means cutting state programs, namely health care, higher education and transportation programs.
If Referendum C passes, the state could waive the requirements of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, for five years, allowing it to keep tax dollars it would normally refund back to taxpayers.
Under Referendum D, the state could borrow more than $2 billion to fund various programs.
“TABOR can grow the (state) budget by 3 percent a year or about $180 million,” Buescher said. But costs for Medicaid, kindergarten through 12th grade education and prisons are growing by 7 percent annually, he added.
Adamson is concerned, and Buescher agreed, that if C and D don’t pass and the state slashes its budget, Medicaid reimbursements to health clinics like Mountain Family could be cut back severely.
Adamson said 80 percent of the people who come through health care clinics are indigent and about one-third of those have their health care paid through Medicaid.
Buescher said the budget committee is struggling “with how to make cuts without killing people. When you kick people out of nursing homes, out of clinics, let prisoners go early … there’s a human cost in that.”
He also said that contrary to what opponents of referendums C and D say, the TABOR waiver would not mean higher taxes or a significant loss in tax refunds.
“The TABOR refund, no one has gotten one in five years. They would get $25 in 2006, $49 in 2007 and $74 in 2008. We’re asking people to give up $25,” he said. “I think if the citizens understand it’s $25 and not the $3,200 (GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc) Holtzman is saying (they would support the referendums).”
Holtzman figured the loss to taxpayers by taking the total amount of tax revenue and dividing it by the number of taxpayers, he added. He did not account for 19 special tax credits that are taken off the top before refunds are doled out, Buescher said. “Most folks are not eligible for them.”
Buescher said C and D have a good chance of passing, “but it will be a tough fight. Everyone stands to benefit from this.”
While Gov. Bill Owens, who is leaving office due to term limits in 2006, and the legislature support the move, Holtzman and an out-of-state organization are putting big money into an advertising campaign, Buescher said.
“There’s a huge amount of out-of-state money being spent on advertising,” he said.
Closer to home, Barry Maggert, of Carbondale and the chairman of the Garfield County Libertarian Party, opposes C and D.
“It’s just more taxes,” he said.
He said schools get enough money already.
“It’s just that they decide they need more money than inflation. I don’t think it’s needed.
“It’s a big problem with the (Re-1) school district. They just got a huge bond issue passed. They’ve got plenty of money. Carbondale has a new high school and it’s shrinking (in enrollment). Why do they need it if it’s shrinking?”
Government is using “scare tactics” to get people to support C and D, Maggert said, “just like they did for the (Re-1) bond issue. It drives me nuts.”
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
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