Ballot measure roundup: Abortion restrictions fail as income tax cut, paid leave, tobacco taxes pass

Gray wolf reintroduction measure remains too close to call

Voter Gregory Grimes takes a picture of Marty Long, left, and Shanell Walker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library polling site in Aurora on Nov. 3, 2020. Grimes said it was his his second time ever voting. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado voters on Tuesday soundly rejected a ballot question that sought to ban abortions after 22 weeks — but could end up saying yes to all 10 of the other measures placed on their 2020 ballots, if results hold.

Both liberal groups and conservative ones claimed victory in several important ballot fights, with a universal paid-family-leave program winning approval alongside an income tax cut that will shave $170 million off of the state budget next year.

Overall, issue committees spent more than $57 million on campaigns for and against the 11 measures to appear on this year’s ballot — down from the roughly $80 million spent on ballot questions in 2018, when anti-fracking measure Proposition 112 drew more than $40 million in spending on its own.

Amendment B (Gallagher repeal)

The Associated Press projects that Amendment B, which would repeal the 1982 “Gallagher Amendment” from the Colorado Constitution, has passed. As of 11 p.m., the measure led with more than 57% of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Colorado secretary of state’s office.

Supporters say that the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment, which requires local property tax rates to adhere to a certain formula, will help relieve budgetary pressure on local governments that have struggled to fund critical services like fire departments and public education.

“Tonight, our teachers, critical-service providers and the Coloradans who rely upon them can rest easy knowing that Coloradans came together to support them and thwart the cuts that the outdated Gallagher Amendment promised to deliver,” campaign co-chair Joe Zimlich said in a statement.

Proposition 118 (Paid family leave)

The AP projects that Colorado voters have passed Proposition 118, a measure to create a universal paid-family-leave program that was placed on the ballot by progressive groups earlier this year. With more than 2.7 million ballots cast, the measure leads with 57% of the vote.

“Help is on the way for 2.6 million Coloradans who will now be able to be there when their family needs them most,” Colorado Families First, which backed Proposition 118, said on Twitter Tuesday night.

Beginning in 2023, the new state-administered program will offer nearly all Colorado workers paid-leave benefits of up to $1,100 per week for 12 weeks. It will be funded through a new 0.9% payroll premium split between employers and employees.

Proposition 115 (Ban abortion after 22 weeks)

Proposition 115, which proposed a ban on abortions performed after 22 weeks of gestation, has failed, according to the AP. As of 11 p.m. the measure had won approval from less than 41% of voters.

The measure’s defeat marks the fourth time in 12 years that Colorado voters have rejected a ballot measure that sought to place restrictions on abortion access. Reproductive-rights advocates raised more than $9 million to fund an issue committee opposing the measure, the most expensive ballot question campaign of the 2020 cycle.

“This latest victory reaffirms a long legacy of defending abortion access, marking the fourth time in 12 years Coloradans have rejected attempts to ban abortion at the ballot,” Lucy Olena, campaign manager for the No on 115 Campaign, said in a statement. “Colorado voters agreed that there is nothing reasonable about one-size-fits-all mandates that deny people access to essential medical care.”

Proposition 116 (Income tax cut)

Colorado voters have passed a measure backed by conservative groups to lower the state income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%, the AP projected Tuesday night. Proposition 116 will result in a tax savings of about $40 for the average Coloradan, while shaving $170 million off of the state’s budget next year.

Proposition EE (Tobacco and vaping taxes)

Voters have approved Proposition EE, a ballot measure seeking to raise taxes on tobacco and vaping products, according to the AP. As of 11 p.m., the measure led by the largest margin of any ballot question decided Tuesday night, winning more than 68% of the vote statewide.

Proposition EE was referred to the ballot as part of a deal brokered by Gov. Jared Polis in the final days of the 2020 legislative session, and the projected $176 million it would raise in annual revenue is expected to help fund universal preschool for Colorado 4-year-olds, one of Polis’ top education-policy priorities. It was opposed by an issue committee funded by discount cigarette manufacturer Liggett Vector Brands.

Under the measure, the tax paid on a pack of cigarettes will increase from $0.84 to $1.94 beginning next year, and gradually rise to $2.64 by 2027. Taxes on tobacco and vaping products will both gradually increase to 62% by 2027.

Proposition 114 (Gray wolf reintroduction)

As of 11 p.m., Proposition 114, which would direct state wildlife officials to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado, was too close to call. Proponents hold a lead of just under 9,000 votes, or 0.3%, out of nearly 2.8 million ballots cast.

If approved, Proposition 114 would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop and carry out a plan to reintroduce wolves in Colorado by the end of 2023. It would also require the state to pay compensation to livestock owners for any losses caused by wolf predation.