Colorado voters rejected a ballot measure Tuesday night that would have allowed state government to permanently retain excess tax revenues, dealing a blow to Democrats' hopes to weaken the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR).
According to early and unofficial returns, almost 56 percent of votes opposed the proposition, with 44 percent voting in favor.
The campaign opposing the measure, No on CC, declared victory an hour after the polls closed at 7 p.m. local time.
"With over a million votes in, Proposition CC is going down," said Amy Oliver Cooke, a member of the No on CC coalition.
Cooke added that Proposition CC's defeat is a message to the state legislature that they "damn well better start prioritizing roads and education without raising taxes."
Yes on Prop CC, the campaign backing the proposal, conceded the election in a statement shortly after 9 p.m. local time.
"We may have lost this battle, but the issues of underfunded roads and schools remain," said House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. "A broad, bipartisan coalition couldn't convince voters that the state should be able to invest with the taxes it already collects. We hope that those who voted 'no' will work together with Prop CC supporters to help us find real solutions to these real challenges for all Coloradans."
Bell Policy Center President Scott Wasserman, a key supporter of Proposition CC, said: "Despite tonight's loss, our needs - better schools, safer roads, stronger family supports - aren't going away."
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said the results show Colorado voters "are the boss, not our part-time state legislature. Despite overwhelming funding advantages, questionable ballot language, and the full endorsement of the Democratic power trifecta in Colorado, Proposition CC has failed."
Holbert added: "It's time for Democrats to prioritize the money our state government already has and to finally fund our roads, bridges, and schools instead of creating new spending obligations."
Proposition CC would have allowed state government to retain excess revenue collected above the Taxpayer Bill of Rights' revenue cap and allocate those funds evenly toward K-12 education, higher education and transportation. TABOR requires any excess revenue that's collected by state government be refunded back to taxpayers.
The proposition, which was referred to the ballot by Democrats during the last legislative session, was supported by educators, higher education officials, and transportation and construction groups. The effort to pass the measure also collected a significant amount of money from out-of-state contributors.
Proposition CC was mostly opposed by taxpayer rights groups and conservative organizations. The Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Prosperity used $1,408,254 in non-monetary contributions for TV and radio ad campaigns.
It's still unclear exactly how much excess funds the state would have been able to retain if the measure had passed, but estimates ranged up to $1.7 billion over the next three years.
Another ballot measure, Proposition DD, was too close to call as of late Tuesday with 50.1 percent opposing the measure and 49.9 percent supporting it.
Proposition DD would legalize sports betting and allow state government to collect a 10 percent tax. Revenue from the sports betting tax - which could reach $29 million once the market is matured - would go to fund water infrastructure and projects across the state.
The ballot measure had mostly bipartisan support, but a key Republican senator came out in opposition to the measure last week, citing unanswered questions and transparency concerns.