Saturday, November 21, 2009

Threat to our communities

Today I sent this out (from my personal email account, of course) to many interested parties.

As promised at the 2009 conference of the Colorado Association of Libraries, I'm posting this to libnet and to the Colorado Public Library Directors lists. It concerns three measures -- two constitutional amendments, and one initiative that if passed would become statute. They are quite likely to make it to the November 2010 ballot.

If they do, and if they are approved by a majority of Colorado voters, the results will be catastrophic not only to public libraries, but to virtually every local government (most definitely including public schools and higher education), as well as the state itself.

Below is my summary of a meeting I attended on November 16 of a group of interested parties, many of whom are from the private sector. Again, if these measures pass, not only government will suffer. It's hard to imagine that any business would choose to live in a state in which the infrastructure -- both physical and intellectual -- were to be deliberately dismantled.

What should you do with the document below?

1. Pass it along to your friends and decision-makers. Send it to schoolmates, and department heads, and friends, and trustees. Today. Don't wait till next week.

2. Consider a donation to the folks listed at the end. Got $10? $50 is better. It might save over $2 billion in local services. Never sent in money to a political cause before? Give money. Or lose money. Those are the choices.

3. Get ready. Between now and next fall, I believe some big things have to happen. This election will not only be about the acceptance or rejection of ill-informed and small-minded anti-government sentiment, it might well be the beginning of something else: a deep, grassroots campaign to educate the public about the worth, the value, of our contribution to our communities. It's time for us to stand up and do as so many of our recent Colorado Association of Libraries speakers advised us: tell our story, advocate for resources to strengthen our communities, solicit and deploy passionate advocates from both inside and outside our ranks. Let me be really blunt: you, front line librarian, trustee, or innocent bystander, will have to either demonstrate support for our work, or sanction its immediate decline. That might include your job.

Caveat: what now appears is the best information available. That will change. Stay tuned.

briefing on Amendments 60, 61, and Initiative 101
November 16, 2009

Note: amendments to the state constitution have two digits; initiatives have three. These are anticipated numbers, although they may change.

Amendment 60 - local budget constraints

* "Re-Bruces” - overturns the demonstrated will of local voters in previous elections
* Allows petitions to lower tax rates – creates potential for more elections
* Requires school district to reduce property tax rates (with backfill expected from state)
* Applies 10 year limit on future taxes – requiring new elections to maintain funding
* Shifts local school costs to state -- which does not have the funds to absorb this

Amendment 61 - public financing ban

* Places TABOR constraints on all public financing
* Revenue rollbacks
* Shrinks allowable borrowing to finance public projects
* Makes use of Certificates of Participation (COPs) difficult as a borrowing tool – all debt must be approved by voters
* After paying off current COPS, must reduce amount of tax by that amount
* Affects cash flow management
* Ends all multi-year arrangements: lease, lease-purchase, etc.

Proposition 101 – public service cuts

* Repeals Referendum C
* Seeks to lower state spending limit, ratcheting down state spending after recessions
* When fully implemented, would cut state revenue by at least $1.7 billion ($1.2 billion in income tax rate reduction; $179 million in elimination of FASTER fees; $164 million in transportation by cutting registration, license and title fees to $10 per vehicle; $100 million in sales taxes by exempting $10,000 in vehicle value from sales taxes; $22 million by eliminating sales taxes on rental vehicles; $4.5 million in telecommunications fees)
* When fully implemented, would cut local government revenue by $622 million ($500 million in specific ownership taxes by cutting to $2 per new vehicle, and $1 per used vehicle; $100 million in sales taxes from exempting $10,000 in vehicle from sales taxes; $22 million by eliminating sales taxes on rental vehicles)

* Over 135,000 signatures gathered for each, so the petitions will probably stand
* If signatures are certified and content is approved, proposals will be on November 2010 ballot
* May be legal challenge: petition gatherers say they are paid, pro-amendment spokespeople say they are not. No issue committee or donations recorded to date. No one knows who is behind it.
* Costs to mount legal challenge – between $25,000 and $175,000
* Costs to mount statewide campaign – between $5-10 million

Donations to: “Protect Colorado's Communities” (EIN 27-1298654)

c/o RBI Strategies and Researching
1900 Grant Street, Suite 1170
Denver CO 80203
(303) 832-2444 X 22

W9 and/or acknowledgement letter available on request
Not tax-deductible. Contributions larger than $19.99 will be reported to the Secretary of State's office.

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