DALLAS — Colorado voters refused a tax increase that would have raised $3 billion for the state’s struggling school districts Tuesday and rejected several local measures that would have provided revenue for bond issues.
The statewide ballot measure known as Proposition 103 was rejected by nearly 64% of the voters in the off-year election.
In local elections, Aurora voters rejected a $114 million tax hike for recreation centers, while those in Douglas County refused to increase school taxes. Aurora, east of Denver, is the metro area’s largest suburb, and the Douglas County area to the south is one of the fastest-growing.
In affluent Boulder, voters approved the creation of a municipal electric utility and narrowly passed a tax to provide funding.
In the mountain town of Canon City, voters rejected a tax that would have backed bonds for library improvements.
Placed on the ballot through citizen initiative, Prop. 103 would have increased the state income tax to 5% and the sales tax to 3%. Colorado’s income tax is currently 4.63% and the sales tax is 2.9%.
State Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, led efforts to gather signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.
Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian Independence Institute, opposed the measure and noted that winning approval for issues that appear complex on an off-year ballot is difficult. Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or Tabor — also a citizen initiative in the 1990’s — all tax hikes require voter approval.
Boulder’s decision to let city officials explore the creation of a municipal utility could take the job out of the hands of investor-owned Excel Energy.
The proposal won 51.78% of the vote in Boulder, where the idea was pitched as a conservation measure. The related proposal for a utility occupation tax to temporarily raise $1.9 million a year to pay for the planning and legal costs passed with 50.27% of the vote.
In Aurora, a citizens group gathered 14,000 signatures to place the recreation centers proposal on the ballot. The group said that Aurora lacked sufficient indoor recreation facilities for the rapidly growing city that sprawls into the eastern prairie of the Denver metro area.
The anti-tax mood of the election appeared to confirm the wisdom of the Regional Transportation District of Colorado in postponing a request for a sales-tax increase to complete RTD’s FasTracks light rail and bus system by 2017.