Your Turn 

Just the facts

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That's how Joe Friday, on the old TV show "Dragnet," would admonish a witness whenever she would wander into speculation or personal opinion.

With all the hyperbole and propaganda you are being bombarded with by proponents and opponents of Referenda C and D, I figured a listing of "just the facts" might be welcomed.

FACT: The Legislature cut $1 billion from the state budget during the past three years. I was there. We did it. It included cuts to higher education, health care, discretionary spending for K-12 schools and highways.

FACT: If Referenda C and D fail, we will be forced to cut an additional $400 million from next year's budget.

Included will be more cuts to higher education, forcing tuition to rise by up to 40 percent. This applies to our own Pikes Peak Community College and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Other cuts include eliminating state support for the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, funding for clinics and hospitals that treat the uninsured poor, funding for care for disabled adults and developmentally handicapped, and dental care for the poor elderly.

Drug and alcohol treatment for prisoners will be eliminated, as will the state's drug abuse and alcohol treatment program.

Vacant judgeships will go unfilled; district attorneys' pay will be cut and the state's suicide prevention program will be lost. Juvenile detention and rehabilitation programs will be zeroed out.

Child-care allowances for the poor will be cut in half, and we will have to reduce child welfare by 10 percent. Funding for nursing homes will be on the chopping block. At least 20 of our state parks will be closed.

These are facts. I have seen the Joint Budget Committee's "Nasty List," and I have talked to members of the committee.

FACT: Referenda C and D do not change the 1992 TABOR amendment. The state still will be required to ask voters for permission for every tax increase.

FACT: Referenda C does not change Colorado's tax rate. It does not change the amount of taxes Coloradans pay. It does allow the state to keep a certain amount of taxes already collected.

FACT: Passing Referendum C does not take away your state income tax refund. You still will get it. If C passes, you will not receive your portion of the approximately $3.7 billion in already-collected taxes over the TABOR limit. The average refund is projected to be $491 per taxpayer over five years.

FACT: Referenda C and D are not blank checks. Language in C specifies that 30 percent of the new money will go to health care, 30 percent to higher education and 30 percent to pre-school and K-12 education. In addition, the Legislature passed House Bill 1350, which dictates exactly how the money will be spent within those three categories.

FACT: The state budget has not increased every year. The total state budget, which includes U.S. government spending, has increased; the general fund, which is the part funded entirely by state taxes, has decreased.

OPINION: Robert J. Samuelson wrote in Newsweek magazine: "We face a choice between a society where people accept modest sacrifices for a common good or a more contentious society where groups selfishly protect their own benefits."

Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents built good schools, a great higher ed system and an excellent highway system for us. They left us a wonderful legacy that we have been letting decay. Will we accept the responsibility to leave as great a legacy for our children and grandchildren?

Abe Lincoln said, "The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves ... in their separate, and individual capacities ... all which, in its nature requires combined action, such as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself."

I agree with Abe.

Michael Merrifield is a Manitou Springs Democrat representing House District 18 in the state Legislature.

In last week's issue, the Independent formally endorsed Referenda C & D, as well as the D-11 bond issues and three D-11 school board candidates. Those endorsements can be read online at csindy.com. Next week the newspaper will weigh in with endorsements on other candidates and issues. For voter information, call the county election office at 575-8683.


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