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State tax cut plan hailed, assailed

At issue: Would proposal 'destroy' government?

Published January 27, 2009 at 12:05 a.m.

The governor and many lawmakers say they're cutting state government to the bone.

Former lobbyist Freda Poundstone says there's still way too much fat.

Both sides are making their pitches to Colorado voters this week in an oddly timed clash of government philosophies.

Poundstone on Monday submitted a proposed ballot measure that would drastically cut taxes and fees paid by Coloradans on everything from car registrations to telephone bills.

It bears a resemblance to a measure that former Rep. Douglas Bruce, of Colorado Springs, failed to get through the legislature last year.

Critics howled over the ballot proposal.

"This would destroy government as we know it," said Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver.

"And it comes at a time when citizens are asking government to provide more solutions, more jobs, more health care," Romer said.

All levels of government would feel the impact if the ballot measure passed.

It calls for drastically reducing the "sales ownership" tax when Coloradans buy cars - money that now goes to counties. It also eliminates a telecommunications fee that the state uses to help rural and mountainous areas get affordable phone service.

"This isn't going to destroy government," Poundstone said. "Government is not easy to destroy - it seems to be growing when nothing else is. I think the reduction of some taxes would be helpful."

But Colorado already is dealing with a revenue shortfall that could hit $1 billion next fiscal year.

Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's administration today will present his proposed budget cuts for next fiscal year, and lawmakers who have been given a briefing have used words such as terrible, ugly and horrible.

"None of these are good decisions," Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said of the proposed cuts.

"We're making a decision about what is the least worst," Ferrandino said.

Poundstone's co-proponent on the ballot measure is Jeff Gross of Kersey, who declined to comment.

Poundstone said she knows little about Gross, who called to ask her about her past successes in getting ballot measures passed. She said she liked Gross's idea and signed on with him.

Filing the proposal is the first step in a lengthy process to get an item on the ballot.

Romer and House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, ripped the proposal.

"This is the same Republican playbook that lost them the presidency, the Colorado legislature and the governorship," Romer said.

"As a Democrat, if the Republican Party wants to run the wishbone offense, I'm all in."

Carroll shook his head when he read the ballot language.

"I am stunned by this," he said. "Folks like this won't be satisfied until government slips into the throes of anarchy."

bartels@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5327; Staff writer Ed Sealover contributed to this report.

Proposed tax-limiting amendment Starting in 2011

VEHICLES

* Registration, license, title would total $10 yearly per vehicle.

* Ownership taxes would decrease in "four equal yearly steps" to $2 for new vehicles and $1 for all others.

* All other state and local government charges - except fines, tolls, parking, seizure, inspection and new plate charges - would cease.

INCOME TAXES

* 2011 income taxes would be 4.5 percent, dropping 0.1 percent yearly until the rate is 3.5 percent, in each of the first 10 years that income tax revenue net growth exceeds 6 percent.

* Income tax credits would cease.

* Alternative minimum tax would cease.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

* Except for 911 fees, state/local taxes and fees would be eliminated on charges for telephone, pager, cable, TV, Internet, computer and satellite.

ABOUT FREDA POUNDSTONE

Former Greenwood Village mayor Freda Poundstone, co-author of a proposal to limit state fees and taxes, is best known for an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that bears her name.

Passed by voters in 1974, the Poundstone Amendment precluded Denver from annexing land in other counties unless a majority of the residents in that county approved. Denver was under court-ordered busing at the time. And when Denver began annexing areas to the southeast near the Tech Center, it caused an uproar because suburbanites didn't want their children being bused.

It was because of the Poundstone Amendment that Denver had to go to voters in Adams County to ask for approval of the annexation that became Denver International Airport.

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