Registered voters in Colorado have received or will soon receive their mail-in ballot for the upcoming November 2 general election. As required by law, ballot issues in odd-year elections such as 2021 can only refer to taxation and similar fiscal matters.

There are only three statewide issues on the ballot. All three were petitioned on to the ballot by voter signatures. In all three, interest groups raised the money to gather the required number of signatures to put the issue on the ballot. These interest groups are also spending money campaigning to get their pet proposals adopted by state voters on Election Day.

So far, much less money is being spent to oppose the three statewide issues. We always give greater scrutiny to citizen-initiated ballot issues than to those sent to the voters by our elected state legislators.

Amendment 78: Legislative Authority for Spending State Money. “Custodial” money is provided to the state for a particular purpose and does not have to be appropriated by the state legislature. Grants from the U.S. government, such as U.S. dollars for highway building and Coronavirus relief funds, are in this custodial category. This constitutional amendment will require that custodial money go into a “transparency fund” that will be controlled and spent by the state legislature.

Cronin: No. Loevy: No. We did not know there was a problem here. If this is a problem, why didn’t the state legislature make the first move to take control of custodial money?

Our concern is this: Such finite details of state money spending do not belong in the state constitution. The Colorado Constitution is for setting up state government (governor, legislature, courts, etc.) and protecting basic rights (freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to lobby, etc.). The details of spending state moneys belong in state law, not the state constitution.

As a constitutional amendment, this will require 55 percent of the vote to be adopted.

Prediction: No. This amendment will appear too complicated, obscure, and unnecessary to most voters.

Proposition 119: Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program. This proposed law would provide state financial aid for private tutoring and other out-of-school enrichment programs. A new state agency will be created to administer the program. Parents, not the public schools, will pick the appropriate programs for their children. A portion of the public school lands income will be transferred to this program. Support will also come from a 5 percent increase in retail marijuana sales. Priority will be given to students from low-income families and special-needs students.

Cronin: Yes. Loevy: No. This will take almost $138 million of public money and spend it on private educational programs supervised by a student’s parents. The key words thus are “out-of-school.” This proposal will appeal mainly to voters who are critical of public schools and would like to see more public money devoted to private education. On the other hand, many people believe public money should be spent on public schools rather than on an unspecified array of private programs.

Is increasing the tax on legal recreational marijuana the right thing to do? Maybe, yet raising marijuana prices encourages the development of an illegal black market for marijuana in Colorado.

This proposed law will require a majority vote (50 percent plus one or more) to be adopted.

Prediction: Tossup. We think many parents will not see their school children needing private tutoring or other private out-of-school services. Yet several prominent former state political leaders, all with a pro-education record, support this measure as addressing important needs, especially for special-needs and minority youth. Backers include former governors Bill Ritter and Bill Owens as well as former Denver Mayor Federico Peña and former state Senator Michael Johnston.

Proposition 120: Property Tax Assessment Rate Reduction. Here we go again. It’s another round in the on-going battle between the Libertarian minded, who like to lower taxes at the ballot box, and the Colorado Democrats, who create and raise taxes and fees at the state legislature.

As originally proposed, this law was going to cut property taxes for all residential and commercial property in Colorado. After this property tax cut was approved for signature gathering and could not be changed, Democratic Party majorities at the state legislature changed the existing law. If the proposal is adopted by the voters, the tax cuts will be limited to only multi-family housing and lodging properties.

Cronin: No. Loevy: No. Every November in recent years, another group comes up with a plan for cutting state taxes. Most are adopted, thereby forcing the state legislature, recently dominated by Democrats, to find other revenues in order to keep financing state government. The end result is an irrational hodge-podge of state taxes and fees, too many of which fall heavily on lower income citizens.

Prediction: Yes. Unfortunately, Colorado voters just cannot stop approving tax cuts.

El Paso County Ballot Issue 1-A: Retain funds that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers and use them for roads and parks.

Cronin: Yes. Loevy: Yes.

Prediction: Yes. Colorado voters tend to vote in favor of letting governments spend tax money that is already collected rather than getting the money back in their own pocket.

Colorado Springs Ballot Issue 2C: Increase city sales tax to support Trails, Open Space, and Parks.

Cronin: Yes. Loevy: Yes.

Prediction: Yes. Colorado Springs voters have generally supported tax increases for parks and open space.

Colorado Springs Ballot Issue 2D: Wildfire Mitigation. Tax money that would otherwise be returned to voters will be used to mitigate and prevent wildfires.

Cronin: Yes. Loevy: Yes.

Prediction: Yes. The destruction caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood in Colorado Springs in 2012 should help 2D get adopted.

Colorado Springs School District 11 Ballot Issue 48: Borrow $350 million to build and repair school buildings. Some of the money will be used to purchase or repair charter school buildings.

Cronin: Yes. Loevy: Yes.

Prediction: Tossup. District 11 voters have been fussy in the past about borrowing money for schools.

Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy write about Colorado and national issues.

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