Sure, it’s a commission on which he once served. In his hometown. Where he first conceived and wrote the taxing and spending limits that, since voter approval in 1992, have been part of the Colorado constitution.
Yet, the current crop of commissioners stiff-armed Douglas Bruce on Tuesday, voting 4-1 Tuesday to move ahead with a November ballot issue asking voters to let the county keep an excess $14.5 million it collected in tax revenue. If voters approve the plan adopted by commissioners, the money will be used for park and infrastructure projects including the long-awaited widening of Interstate 25 north to Castle Rock.
As The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Rachel Riley reports:
… about $12 million of the surplus will pay for roadway improvements, including at least $6 million that will be set aside to help fund the widening of Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock. The widening could get another boost from a ballot item that will ask many county voters if $10 million in tax revenues from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority should be reserved to help pay for construction, which transportation officials say could begin in 2019 if the money can be found. The pledges would be relatively small amounts compared to the cost of widening the roughly 17-mile stretch from two lanes to three lanes — estimated at $290 to $570 million — but regional leaders say the local contribution could be leverage for state and federal funds.
The taxing and spending limits, known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, require a vote anytime government at any level wants to keep increases in tax revenue that exceed the rates of growth plus inflation. Otherwise, the extra money has to be refunded to taxpayers.
Bruce had wanted the county to do just that, returning the money via a one-time, $40 credit toward property-tax assessments.
Yet again, the irony of Bruce’s consistent stance against presenting such requests to voters stands out: He is, after all, the one who wrote the provision allowing governments to ask permission to keep the extra cash in the first place. To date, he has never supported its use, always arguing the money is better spent by taxpayers than by their elected officials.
Plenty of times, voters have said no to the requests; they’ve said yes, as well, on many occasions over the years. El Paso County’s decidedly conservative voters are reputedly skeptical of government pleas for more revenue, of course, but just about nobody in the county cares for the bottlenecked drive to Denver anymore. Which set of sensibilities will prevail?