Pull up a chair: November’s busy ballots will soon start arriving

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 10/2/18

It’s October and everyone’s ballot for the Nov. 6 election will soon be delivered by your friendly U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, beginning around Oct. 15. This particular ballot will be …

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Pull up a chair: November’s busy ballots will soon start arriving

Posted

It’s October and everyone’s ballot for the Nov. 6 election will soon be delivered by your friendly U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, beginning around Oct. 15.

This particular ballot will be longer than normal, with 13 statewide ballot issues along with the gubernatorial race, Congressional district races, state legislative races, county official races, RTD board races and any local government ballot issues like school district mill levy overrides or bond issue proposals. Wow, that is a mouthful!

So, when you get your ballot, pour yourself a stiff one, sit down in a comfortable chair and carefully study your ballot. There is plenty to contemplate.

Remember, we the voters will decide each one of these items on the ballot,which carries responsibility to be informed when making your decisions.

Increased transportation funding that will work

Clearly, some of the 13 ballot issues stand out more and are more important than others. For example, there are two transportation propositions with one of them tied to a sales tax increase.

Initiative 153 would allow up to $6 billion in bonds to be issued for transportation projects, which include cities and counties receiving a portion of the funds. The sales tax rate would go from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent, which is a 0.62 percent increase, and would be in effect for 20 years to cover the length of the bond issues.

To put it another way, it would cost taxpayers an additional 62 cents on a $100 purchase. This infusion of additional revenue is badly needed to allow bonds to be issued without robbing Peter to pay Paul regarding the state’s general fund.

A transportation plan that is detrimental

The second transportation proposal has been called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which would force the state legislature to take out $3.5 billion in bonds for road and highway projects within current revenues.

While this approach does not increase any taxes, it would clearly be a case of reducing existing General Fund revenues to come up with the $3.5 billion. While this is a seductive approach, it is time us Coloradoans step up and increase the needed revenues to begin catching up on aging infrastructure and the need to expand the highway/roads systems both statewide and locally.

K-12 school funding focused on upper-income taxpayers

There is a funding proposal for K-12 public education which is predicated on raising the income tax rate on upper-income residents to produce $1.6 billion annually. The increase would be 0.37 percent for a total tax rate of 3.62 percent.

Taxpayers earning $150,000 or less would see no change in their state income taxes. Funds would go for pre-school through high school programs. We need to remember that school districts are having to cope with less state funding per student than when the Great Recession occurred. For most people, this should be a no-brainer given the needs of school districts to teach and train tomorrow’s workforce.

A fracking proposal which is excessive

The other big one on the ballot of course is about fracking setbacks.

This issue has gotten more publicity and campaign dollars spent than any of the other ballot issues. There is a lot riding on this one as the setback requirement would become 2,500 feet from homes and schools from future oil and gas development.

Currently, state regulations call for a 500-foot setback from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. Proponents say this distance is needed to protect the health of residents and students while opponents say that such a major setback would severely cripple oil and gas drilling in Colorado, which in turn would eliminate a huge number of jobs and tax revenues paid by oil and gas companies.

I have contended all along that a 2,500-foot setback is excessive. Even if the forecast on jobs lost and tax revenues lost are 50 percent off the mark, there has to be a better solution. This one is getting a a “No” vote from me.

“Just compensation” amendment

Then, we have Proposed Amendment 108 pertaining to property rights. Private property owners would be entitled to “just compensation” when government laws and regulations lead to a drop in a property’s fair market value.

This amendment is widely viewed as a “back-up” plan if the 2,500-foot setback on oil and gas drilling would pass, thus reducing the amount of land that could be drilled upon. Remember that the proposed language would pertain to all government actions. There already exists language in the state constitution and state law that address “takings” and condemnations.

I am voting “No” on this one.

Flexibility for candidate fundraising

The last one that I will comment on pertains to candidate fundraising. The policy issue question here is if candidates running for office have more flexibility to raise money when they are competing against self-funded opponents. A good example would be the governor’s race with Jared Polis spending millions of dollars on his campaign.

This initiative would allow candidates to accept contributions that are five times greater than the current state limits when an opponent gives or loans his or her campaign more than $1 million. I would simply say — why not go with this one?

The rest of the pack

Last week I covered the importance of the amendments Y and Z (two separate issues), which would address gerrymandering of state and Congressional districts. Enough said on that one. That leaves five other ballot issues. It is quite a mixture from payday loan rates, hemp, candidate ages, removing slavery language and redesigned ballot wording pertaining to judges.

Having an informed electorate

Every registered household will get the “Blue Book” from the state to help you digest and understand the ramifications of each proposal.

I urge you to take the necessary time to read the whole booklet and be an informed voter. A democracy is built on the assumption that the electorate is informed.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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