The 3 statewide questions on the 2021 poll, explained

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Voters in Routt County will be asked to consider three statewide questions on their ballots for the Nov. 2 election.

The Colorado Constitution requires changes in an out-of-year election to relate to tax matters like taxes or spending.

One of the three issues is a constitutional amendment, which will require 55% of the vote to pass, and the other two would amend the state’s statutes, requiring a simple majority to pass.



Amendment 78: Legislative power to spend state money

Colorado spending is typically approved by the legislature each year when it approves the state budget, but not everything is specifically allocated by the General Assembly.

The sums held are dollars that go directly to state agencies to decide how to spend them, without the legislator having to weigh it. The nationwide settlement money with Purdue Pharma owed in Colorado is an example of custody money distributed by the state attorney general’s office.



Constitutional Amendment 78 would end this practice, prohibiting state agencies from spending custody money without a specific allocation from the legislature. Instead, that money would go into a newly created fund, with interest from the fund going to the general state fund. Agencies can currently spend all interest accrued on money held.

The legislature would then be required to allocate the expenses of this new fund, but only after having held a public hearing.

In 2020, Governor Jared Polis spent $ 1.67 billion in CARES law money that the state received through an executive order. If amendment 78 were approved, a simple expenditure decree would no longer be authorized.

An independent commission is currently allocating transport funding, but if this measure were adopted, it would be in the hands of the legislator. The same goes for federal government grants and gifts or donations to organizations, colleges or universities.

Agencies would have to submit proposed spending of that money to the legislature for approval, which would require more budget staff for each, costing the state about $ 1 million each year.

“It will give power back to the people through the legislature,” said Pete Wood, Republican chairman of Routt County, who supports the measure. “Right now there is money flowing into the governor’s office that he can currently spend as he sees fit, and it undermines the integrity of our government.”

Opponents say this will add more costly bureaucracy to state government and could have significant unintended consequences, as the legislature only meets five months a year. The longer expenditure approval process could delay state spending, including in emergencies like wildfires.

“Some areas of government agencies are very apolitical, they are very technology-based, and you want them to focus on their technological expertise, not constantly reminding their legislature to make a decision,” said Catherine Carson, county chairperson. by Routt. Democrats, who oppose the measure. “If we got federal funds for wildfires, should we call a special session to help our communities?” It doesn’t seem very effective.

Proposition 119: Program for the enrichment of learning and academic progress

If approved, Proposal 119 would create the Learning Enrichment and Academic Advancement Program, which would provide financial assistance to eligible students for extracurricular enrichment such as tutoring.

The measure would be funded largely by an increase in the sales tax on recreational marijuana sales from the current 15% to 18% next year, 19% in 2024 and 20% for each year. next.

It would also create a new state agency to control that money, independent of both the State Board of Education and the Colorado Department of Education, governed by a board of directors appointed by the governor.

To fund this new agency, money would also have to be transferred from the State Land Trust Fund to the State Public School Fund, and then the corresponding money – about $ 22 million per year – from the general fund would go to the new agency.

Carson and Wood have both said they oppose the measure.

Carson said she opposes it because it is diverting money from the Land Trust, which goes to fund general schools, public schools for the benefit of private entities and because it adds more bureaucracy to the funding. schools.

Wood said at first glance that the measure had good intentions, but he doesn’t like the way the new agency spending the money is structured, which he says could lead to corruption. He was also concerned that an increase in the tax on marijuana sales would further incentivize the sale of weed on the black market.

Members of the Steamboat Springs School District School Board said they opposed the move, according to the Colorado School Boards Association.

“It’s one of those things that looks great in theory,” Chairman of the Board Kelly Latterman said on Monday. “The marijuana money is currently allocated to the BEST fundraising program, and (the school boards association) says there would likely be money taken out of it.”

BEST funding has had clear impacts in Routt County, including being the primary source of funding for the construction of the one-year-old Hayden Valley Schools Building.

“The other point is that this may be the start of school voucher initiatives, which would certainly take money away from public education,” said Lara Craig, board member.

Proposition 120: Reduction of the property tax assessment rate

The third measure on the ballot may have a different impact than when it was originally put on the ballot earlier this year due to Senate Bill 21-293 which went into effect in June.

Proposition 120 would have initially lowered property tax rates for all residential and most non-residential properties, but the June legislation created various categories of properties. This bill also temporarily lowered property tax assessment rates for residential, agricultural and renewable energy properties, dropping it to 6.8% for 2022 and 2023.

For this reason, the proposal would reduce residential property tax assessments on multi-family dwellings – duplexes, triplexes or those with four or more units but not including condos – to 6.5%, from 7.15% in 2021. Non-residential rates would drop from 29% to 26.4%, but this would only affect accommodation properties like hotels and motels.

Single-family homes, farmland, mines, and oil and gas properties would not be affected.

This would reduce the amount of property taxes collected by Colorado local governments by $ 45.9 million in 2022 and $ 50.3 million in 2023. Subsequent years are expected to see larger declines due to an expected increase. property taxes on multi-family homes.

Prior to Senate legislation, the measure was expected to reduce property tax revenues by about $ 1 billion – money that goes largely to counties, school districts, fire districts, libraries, and government districts. water and sewer and other county-level services.

School districts would not necessarily be the losers because the state is required to make up the difference between the funding described in state law and what is collected by taxes, although the legislature ultimately decides the funding levels of the schools. schools. If there was a decrease in funding for schools, it would vary by district.

The impacts will vary from county to county, with Routt County experiencing more revenue losses than others because it has a higher concentration of multi-family homes.

Analysis by the non-partisan, business-focused Common Sense Institute shows that if 120 were approved and SB 21-293 upheld by the courts, Routt County would lose an estimated $ 2.2 million in 2024 If 120 is approved and the courts overturn the law and the measure is enacted as originally written, Routt County could lose up to $ 7.4 million in 2024.

Supporters say the measure will reduce the tax burden on many rented units, easing pressure on tenants and prompting investment in more housing amid a local and statewide housing shortage. It could also free up money for hotels to hire more staff or cut rates, further boosting tourism.

Wood said he supports the measure because it will lower taxes for some, especially as inflation outside the pandemic increases costs. He also wasn’t worried about the county’s declining revenue, pointing to increased revenue and pandemic aid that the county decides how to spend.

“Giving people who have multi-family homes is going to give them some relief, and that’s always a good thing,” said Wood. “The more money they have in their pocket, the more they will spend or invest in other things, which is good for our economy.”

Carson said she opposed the measure because while the measure may provide short-term relief to people whose property tax values ​​have increased, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) means the only way raising these taxes in the future would be another ballot measure. SB 21-293 is already providing the immediate relief needed, she said.

“They’ve reduced the factory tax to a statutory level, and that way they can fix it as the economy changes,” Carson said. “The challenge of doing it by ballot is that it’s permanent. … (The legislature) must be able to react to changing economies and changing situations.


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