Your Election Day companion
When in doubt, ‘Yes on Letters. No on Numbers.’

by Missy Votel

Since the last election, the Colorado Legislature has cleared up some confusing ballot-ese. In the past, all ballot measures were called “Amendments,” whether they amended the Colorado Constitution or state statute. However, this has all been recently cleared up. From now on, ballot measures that amend the state Constitution will continue to be called “Amendments,” while those that change state statutes are now referred to as “propositions.”

Another tip to remember in the polling booth is that a ballot measure beginning with a letter is a “Referendum,” i.e. “referred” by the legislature. On the other hand, ballot measures that begin with a number are “Initiatives,” i.e. initiated by the citizens via petition.

This year’s ballot contains no less than nine measures facing Colorado voters – three referenda, four amendments and one proposition. Local voters must also decide on Ballot Measure 3A, a tax increase for School District 9-R.

Although this year’s ballot is not nearly as controversial as those of year’s past, it does have some items to watch out for, including serious threats to education funding and reproductive freedom. Read on for the Telegraph’s annual irreverent cheat sheet to this year’s ballot soup:

1. Ballot Issue 3A: District 9R Mill Levy Override

Durango School District 9-R has requested mill levy override (property tax increase) to benefit teachers, staff, small class size and technological upgrades such as high-speed internet for the elementary schools. Because of the current state funding crisis and subsequent 9-R cuts, the mill levy is meant as a stop gap to prevent future cuts and threats to education quality.

The measure is estimated to raise an additional $3.2 million per year, or roughly $60/year for a typical $400,000 home. If passed, the mill levy will be collected in 2011 on property valuations from 2010.

The school board argues that quality teachers and staff as well as small class size

are critical to student success. However, 9-R teacher and staff pay is on the lower end compared to other similar school districts. Additional funding also will allow 9-R to retain quality teachers and be more competitive with these districts.

At least 10 other Colorado school districts are seeking mill levy overrides this fall.

Our 2 cents: Yes. When it comes to education, we see it as a no-brainer. This is a small investment (about $5 a month for the average family) to make in our kids.

* The mill levy override applies only to 9-R schools. Animas High School, which is chartered under the Charter School Institute, will not receive proceeds from the mill levy. Same will apply to future Mountain Middle School, which is also seeking its charter through CSI.

2. Ref. P, Q, R: Minor house-keeping measures

- Referendum P proposes that the Department of Revenue oversee charity

bingo games and raffles. Currently, the Colorado Secretary of State has that responsibility.

- Referendum Q, aka the Armageddon measure, would grant permission for the Legislature to convene elsewhere if, god forbid, a disaster destroyed the State Capitol or rendered Denver uninhabitable.

- Referendum R provides a small tax cut, mostly for ranchers, ski areas and others who lease land from the government, making the first $6,000 of such “possessory interests” exempt from taxation.

Our 2 cents: “Yes” to Referenda P, Q and R

Referendum P: The Secretary of State’s Office should focus on running elections, no bingo halls.

Referendum much to those who live (lived?) in Denver, if say, there was a cataclysmic meteor crash, but

for the rest us, it makes sense.

Referendum R: OK, typically, we don’t like giving tax breaks to people already using public lands to turn a profit. But, according to the Legislature, the administrative cost of assessing these taxes nearly outweighs the income generated. Given this tax’s high hassle-to-benefit ratio, we agree it makes sense.

3. Amendment 60, 61 and Proposition 101 - Three major tax-cutting measures that would vastly reduce the government’s size and ability to tax and spend.

Meant to play to frustration over the national crises, amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 are backed by a shadowy campaign that reeks of TABOR crusader Douglas Bruce. The only semi tangible credibility to the measures is a rudimentary website: Known collectively by opponents as the “Ugly Three,” major opponents include Coloradans for Responsible Reform, headed by former Gov. Owens press secretary, as well as several state Republican, Democratic and even Tea Party leaders who have come out against the measures as well.

-Amendment 60 would reduce property taxes and phases in a reduction of school district taxes over 10 years. The state would be required to pick up the slack for K-12 education from its general fund to the tune of $1.5 billion. If the effects of Proposition 101 are added in, about 92 percent of the state’s general fund eventually would have to go to public schools.

The remaining $38 million in state coffers would be divvied up among colleges, health care, public safety, prisons and agriculture. By comparison, the general fund today is around $7 billion.

-Amendment 61 would set new government spending limits by prohibiting state and local government borrowing after 2010, unless voter approved; limit the time a local government can borrow money to 10 years; and require tax rates be reduced once debt is repaid.

- Proposition 101 would reduce state income tax from its current level of 4.6 percent to 3.5; reduce vehicle taxes and fees to $1 a year for used vehicles and $2 for new ones; reduce license fees to $10 a year; and get rid of state and local taxes/fees on telecommunication.

Annually, this would amount to a reduction for La Plata County’s three school districts from an estimated $2.7 million to $39,000 through vehicle fees and taxes. Likewise, the county government would lose more than $1.7 million and special districts nearly $1.3 million.

Our 2 cents: No to all three - If the proliferation of anti-60, 61 and 101 signs isn’t enough of a clue to the universal hatred of these measures, consider what it would be like to live without funding for such “luxuries” as jails, courts, Medicaid, roads and college.

Furthermore, Colorado law already forbids state and local governments from spending money they don’t have and they are required to balance their budgets every year. But, much like home loans allow families to live in a house while they pay it off, borrowing allows governments to build roads, schools, courts and prisons cheaper and faster, thus saving money. Also, consider that some school buildings are nearly 100 years old — so why shouldn’t debt be spread out among generations?

While we don’t necessarily buy into the “anarchy” scenario, these measures would severely injure, if not cripple, the state under the cynical and misguided promise of “tax relief now.” State and local governments should not be the scapegoats for several years of missteps in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street.

4. Amendment 62 – The so-called “personhood” amendment would afford inalienable rights under the State Constitution to fetuses from the “beginning of biological development,” defined as the moment an egg is fertilized.

Our 2 cents: If you’re having déjà vu, it’s not coincidental. This is practically the exact measure, verbatim, as that on the 2008 ballot. Kinda funny how the same people pushing this kind of stuff are the ones crusading for government to stay out of our personal lives.

Needless to say, this measure should be opposed, just like it was back in ’08 and countless times before, not only for its unwarranted intrusion into reproductive rights but the legal cluster that will surely result from its rudimentary wording.

5. Amendment 63 – Referred to as the “health-care choice” amendment, 63 would amend the State Constitution to give residents the “right” to choose (or not choose) health-care coverage and would no longer require people in Colorado carry health insurance.

Our 2 cents: This is a blatant and spiteful attempt to gut hard-won federal health-care reform. Furthermore, state law cannot overturn a federal law, making it a moot point. However, until that far-off day when/if our country sees universal health care, 63 is only a step in the wrong direction.

6. Proposition 102 – We have nicknamed this the “Dog, the Bounty Hunter Initiative” as it was put on the ballot by bail bondsmen who basically haven’t landed that lucrative reality TV contract. If passed, this measure would keep more people in jail for lesser offenses, thus requiring the use of bail bondsmen (and women). No lie.

Our 2 cents: While we applaud the fact that there were even enough signatures to get this on the ballot, these people should be ashamed for wasting our time. They should also be ashamed for the taxpayer money that would be spent keeping people in our overcrowded jails unnecessarily so they could make a buck.



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows