Colorado Severance Tax & Transportation, Amendment 52 (2008)
|Amendment 52 (2008)|
Election Results via: The Colorado Secretary of State
The official ballot title reads:
An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the allocation of revenues from the state severance tax imposed on minerals and mineral fuels other than oil shale that are extracted in the state, and, in connection therewith, for fiscal years commencing on or after July 1, 2008, requiring half of the revenues to be credited to the local government severance tax fund and the remaining revenues to be credited first to the severance tax trust fund until an annually calculated limit is reached and then to a new Colorado transportation trust fund, which may be used only to fund the construction, maintenance, and supervision of public highways in the state, giving first priority to reducing congestion on the Interstate 70 corridor.
Details of the measure
Under current state law, half of all severance tax revenue generated by energy producers goes to the Department of Local Affairs for distribution to municipalities, with the other half going to the state's Department of Natural Resources, where it is again divided in half, with one half going to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for loans for water projects, and the other half going to programs related to mineral extraction, clean energy development, low-income energy assistance, and species conservation.
This proposal would freeze the current dollar amount going to the DNR to what it receives today, or $78 million for Fiscal Year 2008-09, according to the Colorado Legislative Council Ballot Analysis Draft, allowing for yearly increases only in line with inflation. Any revenue generated by the tax over and above this amount would go directly into transportation funding.
Per Colorado Legislative Council Estimates, the proposal would reallocate $217 million to transportation funding in its first four years. The loss of that $217 million in revenue would result in cuts in the programs that are funded by severance tax revenue now, including grants for water projects, clean energy projects, species conservation, mineral extraction administration, and low-income energy assistance.
State Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), Sen. Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction), and Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) are the measure's primary supporters.
Better Roads Now is the name of the campaign committee supporting the measure. According to Rep. Gardner, this initiative would create at least $1 billion in new revenue for roads over the next decade.
The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce endorsed Amendment 52 on Sept. 11, 2008. Also endorsing the measure are the Colorado Competitive Council, Action 22, Progressive 15, the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, the Douglas County Business Alliance, and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Colorado Retail Council, and the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce have also endorsed Amendment 52.  Club 20 had originally endorsed the measure but voted in September 2008 to switch sides (see below).
"Our members operate statewide and it's important for us to have roads that are usable and passable so we can get our products to market in an efficient fashion," Christopher D. Howes, president of the Colorado Retail Council, said. "We think this goes a long way toward getting our streets, roads and bridges into shape."
Officials estimate it would generate $90 million in 2009. The initiative is being offered as an alternative to imposing I-70 tolls that would only generate between $33 million and $60 million.
The measure is also being offered as an alternative to Colorado Oil and Natural Gas Severance Taxes, Amendment 58 (2008), which is being pushed by Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter.
Responsible Colorado is the name of the opposition campaign. 
Club 20, an influential western Colorado lobbying group, had a change of heart and is now opposing Amendment 52.
Club 20's board voted Sept. 13, 2008, to oppose the measure after a debate on the proposal at the group's conference.
Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said arguments that the measure focuses only on Interstate 70 and would place another fiscal constraint in the state constitution helped change board members' minds.
In addition to Club 20 several other organizations have opposed Amendment 52: Colorado Water Congress, Colorado Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, I-70 Coalition, Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Colorado Municipal League, Denver Water Board, Environment Colorado, Audubon Colorado, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Progressive Coalition, New Era Colorado Foundation, Progress Now, Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Forum, and Colorado Environmental Coalition. 
Gail Klapper, executive director of the forum, said in a statement, “Our group believes the Constitution isn’t the right place for spending mandates. Additionally, Amendment 52 has pitted two very important interests against one another: water vs. transportation and our members don’t think this type of false choice is good policy. When we create problems for our water needs in an effort to meet our transportation needs we haven’t created a real solution.” 
Editorial boards from newspapers that have opposed Amendment 52 include: Denver Post, Rock Mountain News, Pueblo Chieftain, Durango Herald, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Rifle Citizen Telegram, Grand Junction Free Press, Longmont Times Call, and Loveland Reporter Herald. 
Lawsuit over disclosure of emails
A Denver-based nonprofit legal watchdog group filed suit in Denver District Court Sept. 10, 2008, against the three Republican lawmakers pushing this amendment, asking a judge to compel them to fully comply with an open-records request relating to their correspondence about Amendment 52.
According to an Ethics Watch release, the three lawmakers first objected to the open-records request made under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) but then did turn over a handful of documents via the Office of Legislative Legal Services.
But, according to the release, Penry, Gardner, and McNulty withheld additional documents because when lawmakers discuss a ballot initiative they are not acting as legislators, and therefore the documents aren't subject to the Open Records Act.
"State lawmakers are using the initiative process as an alternative means of advancing their agenda, and therefore their emails to each other should be considered public records under the law, open to public review," Chantell Taylor, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said in the release.
- See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
A statewide telephone poll of 625 registered voters was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research on behalf of the Denver Post on October 28-29.
The poll found:
|Month of Poll||Pollster||Yes||No||Undecided|
|Oct 28-29||Mason-Dixon||34 percent||43 percent||23 percent|
This measure has been certified for the ballot Aug. 15, 2008, as Amendment 52. Supporters submit 137,341 signatures July 29, 2008, against the 76,047 valid signatures required to place the measure on the November 2008 ballot.  
If both Ritter's and Gardner's proposals make the ballot and both pass, Gardner's proposal, a constitutional amendment, would supersede Ritter's statutory change.
- Procedures for qualifying an initiative in Colorado
- Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado
- Campaign finance requirements for Colorado ballot measures
- Colorado 2008 ballot measures
- Petition drive deadlines in 2008
- Colorado signature requirements
- List of Colorado ballot measures
- 2008 ballot measures
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Colorado Legislative Council Ballot Analysis Draft
- ↑ Denver Business Journal: "Denver chamber endorses Amendment 52," Sept. 11, 2008
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Denver Business Journal: "Colorado Retail Council, Club 20 back Amendment 52," Jul;y 31, 2008
- ↑ SpringsChamber.com: "Chamber of Commerce Endorses Amendment 52," Aug. 12, 2008
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Summit Daily News: "Club 20 makes U-turn on tax-for-roads proposal," Sept. 8, 2008
- ↑ KREX-TV News: "Initiative May Clear Up I-70 Congestion," July 4, 2008
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Responsible Colorado website September 2008
- ↑ Denver Business Journal: "Colorado Forum opposes Amendment 52," October 8, 2008
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Colorado Independent: "Ethics Watch targets GOP lawmakers backing Amendment 52," Sept. 10, 2008
- ↑ Denver Post:, "Most state measures look poised for a loss", November 1, 2008
- ↑ Denver Business Journal: "Amendment 52 certified for ballot," Aug. 15, 2008
- ↑ Grand Junction Free Press: "Initiative 120 backers seek ballot approval today," July 29, 2008
- ↑ Rocky Mountain News: "Voters to settle aid for disabled," July 29, 2008
- ↑ Face the State: "Lack of Time, Public Support May Mark End for Proposed Ritter Energy Tax Increase," June 10, 2008
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