The legal challenge to the Grand Valley Drainage District fee by the Chamber and Mesa County continues to wind its way through the court system. A meeting was held with the new judge in the case, Judge Timbreza, late last month and a trial date was set for early June, 2017. It is the hope of both sides, however, that a decision will be reached sooner than that based upon the motions filed by the parties.
With some area businesses being hit with annual bills of $5,000 to $8,000 or more, this is a critical business issue that the Chamber will continue to pursue in an effort to help create a favorable business climate in which to help grow the economy and jobs.
Letter To The Editor – GVDD
The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce respectfully disagrees with the Sentinel’s assertion that “chances are slim” the Chamber and Mesa County will succeed in challenging the Grand Valley Drainage District’s storm water fee as an impermissible tax (“Pay the drainage bill,” 8/26/2016). The case’s only ruling thus far has been to deny a preliminary injunction. Declaring “chances are slim” now is akin to declaring a baseball game over after the first inning.
Here’s why the Chamber will press on: News reports frequently mention the $36 annual assessment on homes, but rarely mention the $300, $1,500, and $6,000 assessments the Drainage District will impose on individual businesses and non-profits every year. The court’s initial ruling said that as long as the Drainage District invoked the right words when adopting this “fee,” then it’s not a tax. The result is a “fee” exception that swallows the TABOR rule: What prevents another entity from imposing a new “technology fee” or “equipment fee” on businesses? What prevents the Drainage District from upping next year’s residential fee to $360, or pegging the fee for a business at $10,000?
The Chamber agrees the Grand Valley needs expanded capacity for drainage. But doing it this way sets a dangerous precedent that undermines Colorado’s constitution and threatens the ability of businesses to manage overhead costs. This harms business owners, their employees, and the customers they serve.
The Drainage District may prevail in this lawsuit if the courts eventually say it has the power to collect its “fee.” At the end of the day, though, power has the second to last word. Ideas have the last word. And the idea that citizens and businesses should not be taxed outside of the law is an idea the Chamber is proud to champion.
DIANE SCHWENKE, CEO
Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce
Click here to download full version of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce September 2016 Newsletter.