Owens Approves New Prison Funding

Tax System Report

A bill that puts the state $304 million in debt, has received Governor Owens stamp of approval. The money will fund the building of a new prison in Canon City and a new research center in Denver.

The Governor says the plan is legal, and does not violate the taxpayer's bill of rights, or TABOR, which requires voter approval before the state can borrow, or raise taxes.

But TABOR supporters say the Governor is violating the law.

The state is using something called Certificates of Participation to finance the projects. The author of the taxpayer bill of rights, Douglas Bruce, says the plan is nothing more than an illegal scheme to avoid TABOR.

State Treasurer Mike Coffman says the certificates are instruments of debt, but they are set up in such a way, they don't require voter approval. Instead, Coffman says, they are subject to annual appropriations by the legislature.

Still Bruce says he will file a lawsuit in the name of TABOR, because, he says, the government doesn't have the right to assume debt without permission.

If the $304 million in funding goes through, the certificates will fund a new state penitentiary in Canon City that will house 948 violent offenders. It is a project which Treasurer Coffman calls critical. The money would also go towards a new health sciences building at the University of Colorado's Fitzsimmons campus in Denver.