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CU regent: State can prioritize higher education without ‘permanent blank check’ of Prop CC

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University of Colorado Regent Chance Hill is formally opposing Proposition CC, saying it would result in a “permanent blank check” that would not end up benefiting higher education.

Proposition CC, which is on the Nov. 5 ballot, asks voters to permanently allow state government to keep excess revenue and use it to further fund public K-12 education, higher education and transportation projects. The Office of State Planning and Budget (OSPB) projects a $1.7 billion surplus over the next three years that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) would require be refunded to taxpayers.

Another estimate said excess revenue collected by the government would be  $310 million in fiscal  2021 and $342 million in fiscal 2022. That would mean in fiscal 2021, higher education would see an estimated $103 million bump in funding. 

“Proposition CC is not the answer,” said Hill, who represents the state’s Fifth Congressional District as a regent. “Until we prioritize higher education over expanding welfare dependency programs, this pattern will not be reversed – no matter how much we grow the budget.”

Hill is the second Republican CU regent to oppose Proposition CC after Heidi Ganahl, who co-chairs the No on CC committee officially opposing the ballot measure. Hank Brown, former U.S. senator and president of the CU system, also opposes the measure.

Mark Kennedy, a former Republican congressman and current president on the CU system, supports the measure as a private citizen.

Other boards at public university systems in the state, such as Colorado State University and Metropolitan State University of Denver, have formally supported Proposition CC. 

The CU Board of Regents won’t take an official position on the ballot measure since it does not have unanimous support among regents.  

Hill said in a Facebook post that Colorado’s economy is strong in part thanks to TABOR. He noted that he does not speak on behalf of the CU Board of Regents.

“I strongly oppose any effort to dismantle TABOR, a key reason why our economy is thriving, by making permanent changes that only provide hypothetical short-term benefits at best for the University,” he said. “In my opinion, CU Regents cannot plan tuition decisions around the distant hope that a politically lopsided legislature will deliver on their promises this time after having repeatedly failed to do so in the past based on similar assurances tied to previous tax increases.” 

Hill added that part of his duty as a regent is to what’s best for the university system, and diminishing TABOR would hurt the state’s economy, and in turn the tax base that contributes to funding the university system.

“My fiduciary duty demands that I consider what is best for CU,” he said. “I believe that Proposition CC will damage the business climate in Colorado and, therefore, may diminish the tax base in the long run. The same tax base that helps fund CU. Consequently, opposing Proposition CC is the best way to fulfill my long-term fiduciary duty.”

“Proposition CC would simply write a permanent blank check to the state’s politicians. If the past is prologue, it remains unlikely that higher ed will see much if any of that revenue,” he added.

Higher education proponents of the measure argue it’s an investment in that would expand opportunity for students in the state.

“It’s supported by colleges and universities and students and parents all over Colorado,” MSU Denver President Janine Davidson said earlier this month.