Some thoughtful analysis on a very full ballot

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 10/21/20

Hopefully by now, you have received your whopper of a local ballot via the U.S. Postal Service. Both sides of this long ballot are shoe-horned with a gaggle of candidates and a plethora of issues to …

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Some thoughtful analysis on a very full ballot

Posted

Hopefully by now, you have received your whopper of a local ballot via the U.S. Postal Service. Both sides of this long ballot are shoe-horned with a gaggle of candidates and a plethora of issues to analyze. Go slowly!

Let’s tackle the state and county issues.

Amendment B (Constitutional) — This would repeal the original Gallagher Amendment, which was approved in 1982 and provides ongoing property tax relief to residential property owners (45% of property taxes). While you as a property owner may not have thought you were getting “relief”, non-residential property owners i.e. businesses were shouldered with a disproportionate property tax burden (55% of property taxes).

The assessment rate for non-residential properties was fixed at 29% while the residential rate floated (currently 7.15%).

This amendment would repeal that whole process. Assessment rates would be frozen at the current percentages which in the future would help those taxing entities which rely heavily on property taxes such as school districts, fire districts and hospital districts. Over time, it would raise residential property taxes and help small businesses and farmers.

I think it is past time to repeal the original Gallagher Amendment to provide a fair, level playing field for all property owners and support taxing entities which heavily rely on property tax revenues.

Amendment C (Constitutional) — This would allow revisions to charitable gaming activities such as bingo and raffles. It strictly applies to non-profit organizations such as churches, fraternal organizations, charitable organizations and others. It would eliminate the requirement of bingo-raffle workers being members of the non-profit and would allow people managing or operating such games to receive compensation either as a member or non-member. Also, the waiting period for a non-profit organization to obtain a state gaming permit would be reduced from five to three years.

In this day and age, I think the changes make prudent sense.

Amendment 76 (Constitutional) — This amendment would require voters to be qualified as a United States citizen.

This amendment is unnecessary. Its language seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. The current state system ensures only those who meet legal requirements can vote in elections. Enough said!

Amendment 77 (Constitutional) — This amendment would give the three current mining towns which are allowed to operate gambling establishments — Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek — to locally decide via their respective voters to approve other games of chance as well as increase a maximum single bet to any amount. That new gaming revenue would be earmarked for programs to improve community college student retention and increase credentials completion in addition to the current supplement for student financial aid and classroom instruction programs.

I support local-determination and the increase in revenue to community college-related needs.

Proposition EE (Statutory) — From my perspective, this one is a mixed bag. While it imposes increased tobacco taxes AND a tax on e-cigarettes and other nicotine vaping products — which I believe is very much needed as a way to reduce teenage use — the use and timing of the tax revenues are foggy. The additional tax would increase $2 per pack to a total of $2.64 per pack by July 2027. Revenue projections starting in full-year 2021-2022 estimate revenues of $175.6 million, increasing to $275.9 million by 2027-2028 when fully phased-in.

Proposed revenue uses are a mixture of pre-school programs, rural school, K-12 education, affordable housing development and eviction legal assistance. Some of the uses are for only the first three years, and then others kick-in. This is too much of a “chicken in every pot” for me. Regroup and focus revenue uses on a couple of major causes.

Proposition 113 — If approved, this would add Colorado to the states which support deciding the election of the President of the United States simply by popular vote. Five times in our history, a presidential candidate has won the election despite losing the popular vote. The new approach would downplay the focus on the key states and provide a level playing field.

Let’s have the popular vote decide the winner!

Proposition 114 (Statutory) — This would change state law to allow the reintroduction of wolves in western Colorado. Simply put, I vote “No.” What’s the justification?

Proposition 115 (Statutory) — This law change would prohibit abortions of fetuses that have a probable gestational age of at least 22 weeks. The proposition does not include any exceptions for risks to the woman’s health or when she has been a victim of rape or incest.

It is my belief that women should decide their pregnancy without governmental intervention.

Proposition 116 — This proposal would reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% starting with 2020. It is estimated to reduce state income tax revenue by $154 million in state budget year 2021-2022 or 1.2% of expected state General Fund revenue. With the reduced state revenues caused by the pandemic and the uncertainty of how fast our state economy will bounce back, I cannot support this proposal.

Proposition 117 — This is an attempt to pull state fees which generate large sums of revenue under voter control. It gets back to the old argument of fees versus taxes.

State voter approval would be required where state enterprises have or are projected to have revenues of more than $100 million in the first five fiscal years. Examples of state enterprises which would have met these criteria previously include high education tuition and fees, Colorado Lottery, Parks and Wildlife licenses and fees and Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise fees. Enterprises were specifically exempted in the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights and I believe it should stay that way.

Proposition 118 — This question and the Amendment B (Gallagher) are the 800-pound gorillas on the ballot.

It would authorize a paid family and medical leave insurance program statewide. Funding would come from premiums paid by employers and employees starting Jan. 1, 2023. Eligible employees would be allowed up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave starting Jan. 1, 2024 and be paid up to $1,100 per week. The initial premium rate is 0.90 percent of wages per employee in the first two years. The employer must pay at least 50% of the amount.

For an employee earning $52,000 annually, both employer and employee would pay a $234 premium per year. To demonstrate the magnitude of the program, the first full year’s premiums are projected to be $1.2 billion.

While this is a worthwhile new program, the timing is not right. Given the huge impact on small businesses from the COVID19 pandemic, this proposed plan should be postponed.

Adams County Proposals — Adams County officials are wanting to make both the ¼ of 1% Open Space sales tax (Issue A) and the ½ of 1% Roads and Bridges sales tax (Issue B) permanent taxes. I have not seen or heard any justification to make these taxes permanent. There is nothing wrong with a renewal process every 3, 5 or 10 year for voters to decide.

Question 1C would eliminate term limits for the person serving as Adams County Coroner and would stand election every four years. I have not heard or seen any compelling justification to change the current term limits on this position. Is this a forerunner to other county positions trying to extend their length of office?

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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