Survey finds majority of Colorado voters support measure to let government keep tax refunds

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Published Thursday, August 15, 2019

By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

A majority of Colorado voters say they'll support a November ballot measure that will allow the state to permanently retain excess tax revenue that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers, according to a recent survey.

Magellan Strategies, a Republican polling firm, found that 54 percent of voters in the state plan on voting for Proposition CC in November, while 30 percent plan on rejecting the measure, and 15 percent remain undecided.

Proposition CC asks voter approval for a plan to let the state government permanently keep excess tax funds that the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights typically requires be refunded back to taxpayers. The measure was referred to voters by the legislature in the last session, and also says the excess funds would go towards funding education and transportation.

TABOR, the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1992, requires voter approval for all tax increases and debt increases. It also requires taxpayer refunds when government revenue increases faster than population growth plus inflation.

Despite the voter support for Proposition CC, a plurality of voters support TABOR and most would oppose a full-fledged repeal in 2020.

The poll found that 46 percent of Colorado voters hold favorable opinions of TABOR, while 36 percent view it as unfavorable, and 18 percent don't hold an opinion on it.

Those with favorable opinions cite the amendment as a check on the government's growth, while those with unfavorable opinions believe it's been a barrier to adequately funding education and transportation, the survey found.

When it comes to potentially repealing TABOR in 2020, 36 percent of respondents would support repeal of the amendment while 48 percent said they would oppose repealing it.

TABOR's requirement for voters to approve all tax increases has significant support, the survey found, with 62 percent of voters supporting that part of the amendment and 26 percent opposing it.

Magellan conducted the survey of 500 likely voters from August 5 to August 7. The poll has a margin of error of 4.38 percent.

The survey comes on the heels of talks that a possible special legislative session would be called to consider altering Proposition CC's language to keep more TABOR refunds, with government forecasts projecting that taxpayers could see $1.3 billion in refunds over the next three years.

Those talks, however, reportedly ended last week.

The Bell Policy Center, which advocates for reforming TABOR, told The Center Square that the survey indicates a changing sentiment when it comes to how revenue should be used. 

"These numbers prove there's a growing sentiment that Colorado should use already-collected revenue to invest in ourselves and our communities during good times," said Tyler Jaeckel, policy and research director for the center. "That said, this poll encourages us to look at the bigger picture of Colorado tax policy. Focusing only on a narrow set of TABOR's effects, it's notable those polled weren't asked about some of TABOR's lesser-known restrictions, like its ban on asking wealthier Coloradans to pay a more equitable share of taxes."

Colorado Rising Action, one of TABOR's most vocal supporters in the state, said the group's internal polling on Proposition CC is more favorable.

"Our internal polling has it under 50 percent," said the group's executive director, Michael Fields. "But, regardless, we're working hard to make sure people know what Prop CC is, because we've always known it's going to be close. The more informed people are about what it would and would not do, the more confident we are that the majority of Coloradans will vote against it."

Colorado Rising Action is part of the "No on CC" coalition, which has formed to oppose the measure.