Opinion: Vote no, no, no

Linda Rockwell
Posted 9/21/21

The prospect of having to decide how to vote on ballot issues seems to turn some otherwise strong, confident people into jelly. Let me make the decisions easy for you. All of this year’s proposals …

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Opinion: Vote no, no, no

Posted

The prospect of having to decide how to vote on ballot issues seems to turn some otherwise strong, confident people into jelly. Let me make the decisions easy for you.

All of this year’s proposals are wolves in sheep’s clothing:

Give power to the legislature to appropriate funds? Of course.

Tax marijuana to provide enrichment opportunities for low-income children? No-brainer.

Cut property tax rates? Why not?

All three of these measures have been put forth by people whose ideas cannot pass muster in the legislature. They have spent millions of dollars to gather signatures to get them on the ballot. Don’t let them deceive you.

The first is an amendment to the Colorado constitution, so it must have 55% of the vote to pass. Amendment 78 would take the responsibility for allocating “custodial funds” out of the hands of the state treasurer and the executive branch and give it to the legislature. Custodial funds are defined as those that originate outside the state, and include federal funds and money from legal settlements. What’s wrong with that? One big problem is that the legislature is only in session for 120 days a year. Money designated for disaster relief, for example, might not be allocated for many months. Or a special session of the legislature, at a cost of about $25,000 per day, might be required.

As near as I can tell, no problems exist with the current system. No money is finding its way into the wrong hands, and no decisions are being made without public input. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Next up is Proposition 119, a change to state law that only needs a majority to pass. It is the most odious of the three. This law would increase the sales tax on marijuana, drain resources from the public schools, give power to an unelected board, and channel tax dollars to private, uncertified providers. Because public education is the bedrock of our democracy, we should all be doing whatever we can to make the system better and stronger. Let’s not weaken it by giving unaccountable private entities control over public money. I’m also opposed because I fear that an increase in the marijuana tax will drive more cannabis users to the black market.

Proposition 120 is brought to you by the same anti-tax, anti-government people as Amendment 78 and was paid for by the same dark money group. Its original aim was to lower residential property assessment rates across the board, but the legislature intervened after the ballot language was set, so now it will only affect multifamily and lodging properties. This all came about because the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment in 2020 — a good thing — gave the legislature the power to set property tax assessment rates.

The really insidious part of this proposal is the lifting of the TABOR cap to ensure that the state has enough money to reimburse counties for the property tax exemptions available to some seniors and disabled veterans. Current law requires this, so this provision does nothing but give the proponents an opportunity to pull at people’s heartstrings. The result of its passage will be a decrease in the revenue available to school and special districts, hamstringing local elected boards.

As you prepare to vote, you can have a long session with the Blue Book, which will arrive in your mailbox shortly, is available at online at leg.colorado.gov/ (yellow link at top of page), a short summary at the public education advocacy site a4pep.org, or you can just trust me, and vote no, no, no.

Linda Rockwell moved to Evergreen with her family in 1982. She got involved in local land-use issues in 1984 and in the Democratic Party a few years later. She served as chair of the Jeffco Democrats from 1993 to 1997. Good government and principled politics remain her passion.

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