He may be recycling some of his quips — Ronald Reagan’s, too — but tax-limitation author and convicted tax evader Douglas Bruce remains a go-to source for curmudgeonly commentary on any proposal for a new tax or fee. The onetime El Paso County commissioner and, briefly, state representative is back in the news this week, dumping on a a pitch by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers to ask voters this fall for a stormwater fee.
Suthers hopes to finance extensive and expensive plans to improve the city’s beleaguered stormwater infrastructure over the next 20 years. Residential property owners would pay $5 a month under the proposal.
The Colorado Springs City Council heeded the mayor on Tuesday, with a council majority voting to take the first step toward placing the fee on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Bruce was primed for the debate, dusting off an old chestnut about how the fee is in reality a “rain tax.” It’s an argument he has invoked repeatedly in his years-long quest to keep a long-dormant plan for a city stormwater enterprise from fruition. (Voters previously voted against imposing a stormwater fee in 2009 and a countywide tax in 2014.)
As reported by Springs NBC affiliate KOAA-TV, Bruce was in vintage form:
“As President Reagan once famously said, ‘There you go again,'” said Douglas Bruce, author of Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights, more commonly known as TABOR. Bruce successfully campaigned in 2009 to convince voters to pass Issue 300, which effectively put an end to stormwater and other enterprise fees imposed without voter consideration. At the time, Bruce campaigned that the stormwater fee was a “rain tax.” Now, Bruce is echoing that familiar refrain.
“It’s a slap in the face of voters who said, ‘We don’t want to pay a rain tax,'” Bruce said. Bruce contends the proposed fee is not a fee at all, but rather a property tax, considering that property owners would be billed for the payments.
Does Bruce still have his fingers on the pulse of likely voters in his hometown, the cradle of tax limitation in Colorado? Or, has the community moved on since his heyday staring down the City Council over fiscal policy and carrying the day at the polls? The city has until Sept. 8 to finalize its proposal for the ballot.