The City Council officially announced its opposition to Amendment 74 Tuesday stating the proposed change to the Colorado state constitution will drastically limit state and local government services with a high cost to taxpayers.
Councilors voted 5-0 to approve and sign a resolution outlining the council’s opposition to Amendment 74, stating language in the amendment was written by “out-of-state corporate interests” and has unintended consequences which place public health, safety, environment, public infrastructure and other public resources in jeopardy.
Amendment 74 seeks to amend Section 15 of Article Two of the Colorado Constitution to require just compensation if private property has “reduced fair market value by government law or regulation.”
The proposed change to Article Two outlined by Amendment 74 reads: “Taking property for public use—compensation, how ascertained. Private property shall not be taken or damaged, or reduced in fair market value by government law or regulation for public or private use, without just compensation.”
Montrose City Attorney Stephen Alcorn explained to City Councilors during Monday’s work session that under the current Colorado Constitution, a property owner already has the right to seek compensation from state or local governments.
“Amendment 74 would expand this well-established concept by requiring the government – i.e., the taxpayers – to compensate private property owners for virtually any decrease whatsoever in the fair market value of their property traceable to any government law or regulation,” the council resolution reads.
Alcorn said the passage of Amendment 74 would not benefit average residents of the state, but would rather benefit private attorneys looking to bring undue litigation against municipal governments throughout Colorado.
In the state Washington, a similar measure was estimated to cost taxpayers upwards of $2-Billion from state agencies and $1.5-Billion for local governments within the first six-years of passage. The effort in Washington was defeated.
In Oregon, state and local agencies were faced with billions of dollars in claims before the measure was repealed three years after its passage.
City Councilor Judy Ann Files said she was troubled by campaign literature she found which used images and language that is misleading to voters. One campaign filer used a picture of United States President Ronald Reagan with text stating Amendment 74 was designed for residents to take back their property rights.
Alcorn explained language used to sell Amendment 74 was shrouded with uncertainty but had far-reaching impacts to local governments.
“No one truly knows how this proposed expansion of Section 15 could impact Colorado or local governments. This ambiguity will result in taxpayer dollars going towards lawsuits, which either means a rise in taxes or a reduction in government services for neighborhoods, including parks, police, and utilities,” Alcorn said.
For example, a local business that saw a decrease in business because of road paving could seek reimbursement for any lost income from the taxpayers.
Alcorn said the city could not afford such a policy and said street repairs – in this example – could be delayed indefinitely.
Any change in law or regulation, even those broadly desired by a community or those in the interest of health, safety, and welfare, could be challenged by private landowners, according to Alcorn.
“Amendment 74 will undoubtedly lead to increased legal exposure and costly litigation that will increase costs for government programs and services. These will be paid for at the taxpayers’ expense,” Alcorn said.
Alcorn explained Monday that nearly every Colorado community had voiced opposition to Amendment 74, and many of those communities, like Montrose, have drafted official resolutions objecting to the legislation.
The resolution passed Tuesday states, “The City of Montrose opposes Amendment 74 and strongly urges a vote of No this November.”