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Wanting you to show them the money

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By Greg Romberg

Coloradans will see a very crowded ballot this fall. In addition to races for all of the statewide elected officials, our seven members of Congress, the entire state House of Representatives and half of the state Senate, there will be many statewide ballot questions as well. The legislature has referred six measures for our consideration, and it appears that seven initiated measures (the Secretary of State is still confirming the validity of signatures on six of them) will be on the ballot as well. Two of the initiated measures — one for K-12 education and one for transportation — request more tax dollars from voters.
In addition to these statewide measures, governments all over Colorado are planning to ask voters for more money in November as well. For voters in Evergreen, it appears likely that elected officials for Jefferson County schools, the Evergreen Fire Protection District and the Evergreen Park and Recreation District will all be asking us to approve higher taxes.
While valid arguments will be made by proponents of all of these potential tax increases, the sheer volume of requests will make all of their jobs harder. How many voters who believe in the benefits of all the measures will be willing or able to support them all, and how many will prioritize questions, pick and choose among those they believe have merit and vote for only their highest priorities?
When you add those decisions to what will likely be a relatively high percentage (I’m guessing between 40 percent and 45 percent) of voters who will vote against all suggested tax increases, it looks like the crowded ballot will lead to tough sledding for every proposed increase. Multiple tax increase requests will lead supporters to develop complicated multi-tier strategies that will include not only telling the story of the merits of their proposals, but also, probably with some level of subtlety, why their request is more important than other things on the ballot. And the formula for success becomes even harder in jurisdictions with multiple tax questions (it’s likely that Denver voters will see more potential tax increases than in Evergreen) where the equation for passage becomes even more complicated.
While I believe that there is insufficient funding for most, if not all, of the important governmental services we will be asked to provide additional resources for in November, it’s unfortunate that multiple requests are being made to voters at the same time. For any of the proposals to succeed, it will either take overwhelming taxpayer support or very common prioritization of the highest priorities by supportive voters for any of the measures to succeed.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.