COLORADO — Statewide odd-year elections in Colorado focus on ballot questions dealing with the state's "Taxpayers Bill of Rights" (TABOR).
This year, voters will decide on three statewide initiatives, in addition to local issues such as school boards and city and county decisions.
What is TABOR anyway?
Passed in 1993 by voters, it's a part of the state's constitution that creates rules on how the state handles tax dollars. Notably, it requires voters to pass any tax increases and debt.
Summary of the initiative: This question asks if taxes should go up on recreational marijuana to help fund a new program for Colorado students, which would include tutoring and other out-of-school learning programs. The funding would also shift existing money in the state's budget.
The sales tax on marijuana will gradually increase over the course of the next few years from the current 15 percent tax to 18 percent in 2022, 19 percent in 2023, and capping at 20 percent in 2024.
Arguments in support: Supporters say the program would help families fund programs beyond the classroom. With the pandemic, supporters argue there's a need for additional support for students who can't afford traditional tutoring or other enrichment programs.
Arguments against: Opponents argue public dollars should be spent on public education, not outside programs. By increasing taxes on marijuana, opponents say it could increase demand on the black market and impact low-income individuals.
In 2020, Colorado voters repealed the state's Gallagher Amendment and effectively froze assessment rates on residential property taxes at 7.15 percent and commercial properties at 29 percent. This is the rate used in the equation to determine how much in taxes property owners owe. Proposition 120 is asking voters to lower the assessment rate to 6.5 percent for multi-family properties and 26.4 percent on hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts.
Organizers of the ballot initiative initially sought to lower the assessment rates for most non-residential and all residential property. A bill passed in the 2021 legislative session made some caveats if the ballot question passes.
If voters turn down Proposition 120, the assessment rates will still decrease for 2022 and 2023 for all property owners. The legislation specifies reducing rates further for multi-family and lodging if voters approve the question.
(A lawsuit has been filed against the Secretary of State's office and the organizers of this ballot initiative. The group filing the lawsuit is urging the state to remove the question from the ballot, or not have any votes count.)
A statewide amendment on November's ballot aims to give the legislature control over allocating "custodial money" such as legal settlements and emergency federal relief funds. Currently, most money is allocated by either the state treasurer, Governor's office, or the Attorney General.
The legislature is constitutionally required to come up with a balanced budget every year, custodial money isn't involved in this process.
The initiative would also create a Custodial Funds Transparency Fund where the money would go. Additional staff would be hired in the state agency budget offices as well as the legislative budget staff.
Supporters of the initiative say it would give more transparency to additional money the state collects beyond taxes. By giving power to the legislature to allocate the money, it would mean more public input in how these types of funds are spent.
Opponents of Amendment 78 believe it adds additional hurdles to allocating money the state gets, which they say could cause challenges in the event of an emergency or disaster. Opponents say it could hurt the state in grant applications by adding an additional step for legislative approval.