DALLAS — Three ballot initiatives that would drastically curtail the ability of Colorado state agencies and local governments to issue debt are winning little support from voters, according to the first public polling on the issue.
None of the three ballot measures — known as amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 — enjoyed more than 12% support in the poll conducted by Survey USA for the Denver Post and KUSA 9News. The ballot measures have raised a good deal of anxiety in the municipal bond industry because of the impact they would have on the ability of the state and its localities to finance public infrastructure.
Amendment 60 would roll back property tax hikes for public schools and apply new limits to future revenue. It received only 10% support in the results released Monday, while 48% of those surveyed opposed it and 42% were uncertain.
Amendment 61 would ban all state borrowing, including short-term notes, and require voter approval for all short- or long-term local debt. It earned 10% support in the poll, with 49% opposing it and 40% unsure.
Proposition 101 would lower state income taxes and limit vehicle registration fees to $10. It had the most support at 12%, with 44% opposed and 44% undecided.
Opponents have $5 million in campaign cash and have advertised against the measures. Meanwhile, proponents are operating with a shoestring budget.
“Seventy thousand jobs will be lost in our sputtering economy, pushing Colorado deeper into recession,” the website donthurtcolorado.com claims. “More than half the job losses will come from private businesses, the rest from critical public-service functions in state and local government.”
Some in the muni market are worried about the outcome, especially given the sweeping nature of the proposals and past Colorado votes.
While voters have supported some costly state projects, they also passed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights limiting how much revenue government can collect, even without a tax-rate increase.
The TABOR amendment, backed by some of the same promoters of amendments 60, 61, and Proposition 101, won approval in 1994 when Republicans took control of Congress.
Government officials fear a repeat of that scenario in the upcoming mid-term elections, which feature two Tea Party candidates at the top of the Republican ballot — for governor and U.S. senator,
The Colorado Hospital Association estimates the three measures would permanently remove $4.2 billion of taxes from state and local annual budgets, with $3.3 billion specifically cut from the state budget.
The possibility that any of the three measures might pass has affected timing of bond issues, according to Dee Wisor, attorney at law firm Sherman & Howard. She is bond counsel for several Colorado issuers.
The measures take effect Jan. 1 if they pass, making debt issuance and credit ratings uncertain.