Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU hosts debate on tax reform measures

Tax reform proponents squared off Oct. 19 against an unlikely pair of opponents — leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties in Colorado’s State Senate who have crossed the aisle to oppose tax slashing measures on Colorado’s November ballot.

Republican Josh Penry, who served as minority leader in the Senate this past session, and Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer both sought to convince an audience at the University of Denver — as well as those watching on television and the Internet — that proposed Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 would be bad for the state.

Natalie Menten and Debbbie Schum of CO Tax Reforms contended the measures would reduce government spending, cut the residential and business tax burden and create jobs while reducing debt.

The event was moderated by Aaron Harber. It was broadcast live on the Fox 31 website and recorded for broadcast on KCDO-TV Ch. 3 and at the website

“The general idea of all three of the measures is to restore the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and give the voters the control to say how we are going to invest in our future and how we are going to protect our children from excessive debt,” Menten said.

Menten and Schum said the trio of proposals would force the state government to cut spending, eliminate waste and reduce debt. Amendment 60 overhauls property taxes, Amendment 61 restrains the state from incurring debt and Proposition 101 is aimed at cutting car taxes and registration fees and cutting the state income tax.

But Penry said that while he opposes higher taxes, the propositions are too convoluted and ill-conceived and would end up crippling the state’s ability to operate without explaining where the cost savings would come from.

“Nobody railed more for cuts than I have,” he said, before blasting the proposals. “Essentially what you have is a small group of people who popped out with this plan, dressed it in the cloak of tax cuts and said we should all salute … If you’re going to propose it, then you have to tell us where the cuts will come from.”

Throughout the debate, both sides sparred over the impact the proposals would have on state government and the economy, schools and state infrastructure and services. Schaffer said that while reform advocates complain of a growing state budget, they ignore the rapid population growth the state has seen in recent decades, which demands public sector growth. He said the measures would cut jobs in teaching, government services and construction, while Schum said tax relief would allow consumers to spend more and businesses to hire more workers.

“We have every right to do this,” Schum said. “If you think government is going to reign itself in, you’re in for a long wait … When you see that government is out of control and unresponsive, then it is not only your right but it is your duty to reign them in.”

Harber said the presentation is one of more than 40 such events by aimed at educating voters in the 2010 election cycle, the most ever produced on a state’s election. All videos are available at

This year’s election day is Nov. 2, mail-in ballots have already been sent out across the state, and in the Denver area early voting centers have opened.

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