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El Paso County changing perception against taxes

Voters approve 12 of 14 financial requests

Is El Paso County losing its antitax...

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - What's happening in El Paso County?

Election Day results show the county's long-held perception of being a strong anti-tax community appears to be changing.

Voters approved 12 of 14 requests for tax increases, fees or keeping tax revenue surpluses.

So why are voters more willing to open their wallets or purses?

Nancy Nicholson, who just moved to Colorado Springs from Pueblo, offered a theory.

"I feel the city needs it," she said.  You can just drive around and see that."

If the trend is changing, Jonathan Reilly hopes it's here to stay.

"I vote for everything," he said.  "It's not because I'm progressive.  It's because Colorado Springs is a regressive town.  The leaders haven't been forward-thinking, and I hope that's changing."

Even Robert Hodek, who voted against a stormwater fee passed by voters, has a different attitude.

"We should all pitch in and do what needs to be done," he said.

The apparent trend began two years ago when John Suthers campaigned for and won the mayor's office, successfully pushing for a sales tax increase to finance a five-year expanded paving project and reduce the number of potholes.

"What I see happening is people are moving here from other places and are shocked that we don't have a stormwater fee," he said during a news conference Thursday.  "I think we did what we had to do.  We told people we needed money, we told them how it would be used and we were ready to explain it in detail.  You always wonder if the timing is right, but in this case, circumstances dictated our actions."

But Josh Dunn, a political science professor at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, downplayed the apparent trend.

"Certainly, there's that anti-tax element in the community," he said.  "TABOR, the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights that went statewide, was created here.  The anti-tax perception isn't totally undeserved, but I think it has been overstated.  I don't think voters need to worry about an increase in ballot questions asking for more money."

In Pueblo County, voters passed two of four financial questions on the ballot.


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