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Three weeks after The Colorado Independent launched a series of reports detailing the shadowy group Western Skies Coalition, the watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch has filed an IRS complaint asking for an immediate investigation into whether Western Skies, along with three other 501(c)4 nonprofits, are truly engaged in “social welfare” activities — or if their activities are actually more akin to hard core politicking.
In spite of what oil and gas companies are saying, a 'yes' vote on Amendment 58 won't mean higher prices at the gas pump. According to a report issued yesterday by the Bell Policy Center, an economic research organization in Denver, gas prices are not directly determined by severance tax rates. Amendment 58 seeks to eliminate a tax benefit historically handed to the oil and gas industries in Colorado in order to recoup $300 million per year for schools, transportation and natural resource projects.
Gov. Bill Ritter’s office stepped up the intensity of the Amendment 58 debate Thursday, sending out a signed e-mail touting A Smarter Colorado’s new television ad and asking voters to share it with friends in a bid to end the state’s “outdated tax subsidy for oil and gas companies.”
Even as a shadowy conservative group backed by oil and gas money works to reclaim a state Senate majority for Republicans in 2010, other issues committees are taking a much more direct approach to fighting off attempts to end tax subsidies for the industry in November.
The day after U.S. Interior Department officials detailed for Congress the sordid sex and drug scandal in its Denver oil royalty office, a spokesman for a group trying to roll back oil and gas tax subsidies in Colorado said public outrage can only help Amendment 58.
This November, Coloradans will be faced with two ballot initiatives dealing with how the state collects and allocates taxes on the oil and gas industry. Severance tax, so-named because it applies to natural resources permanently severed from the earth, not only dominates part of the the state's ballot, but also much of the political discourse this election season. Some fear that increasing taxes on the industry — as Governor Bill Ritter's Amendment 58 will do — will only scare off oil and gas companies or raise gas prices in Colorado.
State lawmakers and energy experts are hotly debating a pair of dueling oil and gas severance tax questions on the Nov. 4 ballot, with even some Republicans divided on Amendment 52, which is being touted by conservatives as an alternative to Gov. Bill Ritter’s Amendment 58 tax hike.
Oil and gas companies doing business in Colorado have dropped a mind-blowing $10 million into Amendment 58 — a statewide initiative that would cut their state severance tax and raise roughly $321 million a year for college scholarships, wildlife habitat and other programs. But when it comes to whether big oil may be pumping in cash to help Republicans retake control of the state Senate, well, they're just not saying. And in fact, they don't have to.
With a record 18 proposals on everything from oil and gas taxes to unions to the developmentally disabled to gambling, Colorado voters will be weighing in on the longest ballot in Colorado since 1912 — and the largest in the United States this year.
Colorado voters haven't faced a ballot this long since 1912, the first year citizens were able to initiate laws in the state. After striking a pro-affirmative action measure for insufficient signatures Wednesday night, the Secretary of State's office drew a line under a total 18 statewide questions for the November ballot -- 14 initiated by citizens and four referred by the State Legislature.
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