Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Road tax measure needs repairs

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 1:36 PM

click to enlarge Council members met today before noon to eat lunch and discuss city business. Among the topics was the need to correct language in the resolution calling for a ballot measure to be submitted to voters. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Council members met today before noon to eat lunch and discuss city business. Among the topics was the need to correct language in the resolution calling for a ballot measure to be submitted to voters.

Today, City Council will adopt a new version of ballot language for its roads tax after an outside attorney dialed up the City Attorney's Office and pointed out a deficiency.

Actually, city officials aren't calling it a deficiency. Chief of Staff Jeff Greene calls it a "friendly amendment" to the original resolution adopted two weeks ago.

Here's the original ballot language:

Shall City Taxes be increased temporarily $50,000,000 annually by levying 0.62 percent sales/use tax for road repairs/improvements to terminate 12/31/2020.

Here's the new language:

Shall city taxes be increased $50,000,000 annually by levying a temporary 0.62 percent sales/use tax.....

The only difference is the placement of the word temporary/temporarily, but it was enough that the entire resolution will be re-adopted today no sooner than 4:33 p.m., which is exactly 24 hours after the notice of the change was posted, a requirement by law.

Former state Sen. Andy McElhany is the reason for the change. He's the one who engineered contacting the city about it, through an outside attorney.

"They're violating the constitution," McElhany tells the Independent. "The constitution says when you ask for a tax increase, you have to use very specific language. You can't put modifiers like, 'this is a temporary increase in taxes.' It's all very simple and it's all very clear. Why they would do this is only to gain unfair advantage.

"We just think it ought to be clear, they ought to obey the law going in," he adds. "They're free to make their political arguments, but they're not free to break the law."

When told that Greene called the change a "friendly amendment," McElhany says, "What about the state constitution? Do we just ignore that? That's unbelievable. A friendly amendment?"

McElhaney says he opposes the tax increase.

City Attorney Wynetta Massey, whose office wrote the original language, is paid nearly $200,000 a year. The one who proposed the measure is Mayor John Suthers, who's also a lawyer and formerly served as Colorado's attorney general.


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