Opinion: Prop 116 will make economic recovery more difficult

Karn Stiegelmeier
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

You know the saying: when you’re in a whole, stop digging. 

The State’s general fund has been cut by nearly 25%. Even before the pandemic, State funding for essential education needs have been shamefully lower than most other states. The complications of out-of-date, unfair tax code limits the State’s ability to respond. The greatest cuts were to K-12 public schools, colleges and universities and the restricted federal aid only provides temporary relief. Months later, as students are headed back to the classroom or logging on to a virtual home room, our economy and state budget remain in a perilous position. 

Colorado is in a $3.3 billion dollars hole that has had a real cost to our teachers and students. Now Proposition 116 threatens to make these impacts worse. 

On the surface, a blanket tax cut like the one proposed in 116 looks well meaning. But Proposition 116 is not meant to help everyday Coloradans. Over half of the $154 million dollar tax cut would be going to the top 3% of earners in the state. A worker making $38,310 a year would save barely $30, or just about 60 cents a week. An unemployed worker gets even less. Meanwhile, the wealthiest in our state will save hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid for with cuts to essential services that many Coloradans have come to depend on. 

If voters approve Proposition 116, education, health care, transportation and even the agencies that protect our public lands would be at risk of losing more funding – on top of the budget cuts we’re already facing due to the recession. In just the next three years, more than $400 million will be wiped from our state budget. That’s enough to fund major improvements on I-70, fund thousands of students in public schools, and cover health care for low-income families. Wiping out that funding now would leave homecare workers, teachers, doctors and nurses high and dry in the midst of a pandemic. 

These are tough times, there’s no way around it; however, the way we get through this isn’t from taking critical services and programs from those that need it most, but by ensuring that everybody has the tools they need to recover from this pandemic. Proposition 116 would take from the essential services that all too many people throughout our state depend on. We should be talking about investing in all Coloradans, and helping the working people of our state get back on their feet. 

For the sake of all Coloradans, let’s stop digging and put the shovel away. I’ll be voting no on propositions 116, and I urge everybody to do the same. 

Karn Stiegelmeier is a Summit County commissioner.

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