By Wayne Laugesen
Our Sept. 9 editorial understated a problem. It claimed “bad ideas don’t get much nuttier than Colorado’s proposed Amendment 73.”
Turns out, these tax increase proposals are worse than we thought.
Colorado attorney Jon Anderson scrutinized the ballot language and found false and misleading statements. A simple calculator proves him correct.
In the unlikely event voters approve these big new taxes, they won’t hold up in court. Plaintiffs will easily prove they voted under false and deceptive pretenses.
The ballot measure’s two most egregious misstatements pose material harm, because they make large tax increases seem small.
Egregious deception 1:
The Ballot asks voters to increase the corporate income tax rate by 1.37 percent.
Here’s a cut-and-paste from the ballot: “Increasing the corporate income tax rate by 1.37% … ”
If that were true, corporate taxes would go from 4.63 percent to 4.69 percent.
In truth, the ballot measure takes the corporate tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent. That means increasing the rate by 29.59 percent.
Nondeceptive language would tell voters the measure increases the corporate income tax rate by 1.37 percentage points. Alternatively, the ballot could accurately propose raising the rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent.
The faulty wording, intentional or otherwise, creates the false illusion of a minimal tax increase businesses can easily absorb.
Egregious deception 2:
The ballot measure says: “increasing income tax rates incrementally for individuals, trusts, and estates using four tax brackets starting at .37% for income above $150,000 … ”
Again, this sounds like a relatively small increase in rates on middle-class incomes of $150,000 and more.
If the ballot language held true, a 0.37 percent increase would raise the rate on incomes of $150,000 from 4.63 to 4.64. Instead, the measure raises middle-income taxes from at least 4.63 to 5 percent. That’s a 7.99 percent increase, not a mere .37 percent increase.
Egregious deception 3:
In addition to raising rates on middle-class incomes, the measure proposes “increasing to 3.62% for income above $500,000.”
That one makes no sense at all. We cannot “increase” a tax rate of 4.63 percent “to 3.62” percent. We must assume the sloppy phrase follows the logic of the other proposed increases and calls for raising the tax rate by 3.62 percentage points.
Doing so creates a tax bracket of 8.25, which means increasing the tax rate by 78.19 percent.
Imagine young executives and business owners contemplating their futures in Colorado. When they hear of a 78 percent tax hike, they will likely pass on our state in favor of locations that do not overtax success.
As explained Sept. 9, this ill-conceived tax increase also tries to deceive voters by proposing the mirage of a reduction in residential property taxes. It neglects to explain that freezing property taxes at 7 percent negates a greater tax reduction anticipated under reappraisal in 2019.
By messing with aspects of the property tax system, careless authors of Amendment 73 inadvertently lower the state’s property valuation by up to 8.6 percent. In doing so, the measure threatens to starve counties, cities and towns, library and water districts, health agencies, fire departments and more.
As suggested by Anderson, who represents a group opposing Amendment 73, Secretary of State Wayne Williams should initiate legal action to correct blatant misstatements in the proposal.
Even better, voters should quash this bad idea by voting “no” on deception.
The Gazette editorial board