Our View: Vote ‘no’ on Colorado’s 3 statewide ballot measures
Colorado voters will be deciding on three statewide ballot measures Nov. 2. They are: Amendment 78, Legislative Authority for Spending State Money; Proposition 119, Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program; and Proposition 120, Property Tax Assessment Rate Reduction. Steamboat Pilot & Today is not endorsing any of the statewide ballot proposals this fall, and here’s why.
Amendment 78 proposes to change the state constitution and state law to give Colorado lawmakers additional oversight in state spending. Currently, the State Legislature adopts a budget every year that allocates state revenue. Other forms of revenue that come from outside state government, such as money from the federal government or legal settlements, are referred to as “custodial money” and are not appropriated by the Legislature.
This amendment would prohibit state agencies from spending custodial money without a specific allocation from the Legislature. Instead, this money would go into a newly created fund, with interest from the fund going into the state’s general fund. Agencies currently can spend any interest that is accrued on custodial money.
Proponents of the measure say Amendment 78 would increase transparency, but we think the amendment would create unintended consequences, disrupt state government and make budgeting more difficult overall. It is also unnecessary because the spending of custodial dollars is already reviewed by the Joint Budget Commission annually.
We elect our lawmakers to make smart, ethical decisions and to ensure government is accountable to taxpayers, but they are not experts in all facets of government, including the intricacies of effectively distributing revenue year-round.
This amendment proposes to add another layer of perceived accountability, but it would actually create more problems than it solves. Amendment 78 would also serve to make government less nimble and responsive, particularly during emergencies, and would further slow government response to taxpayers.
Proposition 119 would establish the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress program, which would provide financial aid to eligible students for out-of-school enrichment like tutoring. The measure would be funded largely by an increase in the recreational marijuana sales tax, bumping it from the current 15% to 18% next year, 19% in 2024 and 20% for each year after.
We believe there’s a need for tutoring and enrichment programs but not independent of existing educational structures, but Proposition 119 would create a new state agency, called the Colorado Learning Authority, which would operate independently without oversight by the state Board of Education and the Colorado Department of Education.
Taxpayers often complain that government agencies are not on the same page. By creating a separate educational authority, we risk adding inefficiencies and confusion to what is already a challenging mission.
The measure also diverts about $22 million per year away from the State Land Trust Fund, which supports general school funding, to help fund the new state agency. That’s not a move we support.
At issue: Three statewide measures — Amendment 78 and Propositions 119 and 120 — will be decided by voters on Nov. 2.
Our View: Voters should vote “no” on all three ballot proposals.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
Proposition 120 would lower residential property tax assessments on multifamily housing, including apartments and duplexes but not condos, to 6.5%, down from 2021’s 7.15%. Nonresidential rates would drop from 29% to 26.4%, but that would only affect lodging properties like hotels and motels.
This measure would decrease the amount of property taxes collected by local governments across Colorado by $45.9 million in 2022 and by $50.3 million in 2023. Routt County alone stands to lose $2.2 million in 2024 if the measure passes. Subsequent years are expected to see larger decreases because of a planned property tax increase on multifamily homes.
This proposition is problematic because its language was drafted before passage of Senate Bill 21-293 in June. As a result, voters are being asked to make an apples-to-oranges decision on an important tax measure that does not reflect current state law. A “no” vote will allow proponents to return with a future proposal that reflects current state law.
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