2021 election guide: Coloradans to vote on three statewide fiscal measures
Proposed constitutional amendment faces last-minute legal challenge
Ballot tabulator Becky Brandl readies ballots to go through a scanner and tabulation machine to count votes at the Jefferson County Elections building on Oct. 21, 2020. (Eli Imadali for Colorado Newsline)
While off-year elections typically center on local races and ballot issues, Colorado’s 2021 Coordinated Election on Nov. 2 will put three questions to voters statewide.
Mail ballots will be sent to all registered Colorado voters beginning Oct. 8, and can be returned through the mail or via ballot drop boxes. To ensure your ballot is counted, elections officials are advising voters not to return their ballots through the mail later than Oct. 25.
Visit your local county clerk’s website for more information, including locations and hours of voter service and polling centers and drop boxes.
Detailed information about the three statewide ballot measures prepared by nonpartisan state analysts, including fiscal summaries and full texts, can be found in the 2021 State Ballot Information Booklet, known as the “Blue Book.”
If approved, Amendment 78 (“Legislative Authority for Spending State Money”) would require the Colorado General Assembly to appropriate “all state spending,” including money received from the federal government or through legal settlements, through a formal budgetary process, repealing the ability for certain “custodial funds” to be spent directly by the state treasurer.
The measure is backed by conservative group Colorado Rising State Action.
Opponents of the measure, including Scott Wasserman, president of the liberal Bell Policy Center, have launched a last-minute legal challenge seeking to remove it from the ballot. They argue that it violates constitutional provisions that stipulate odd-year elections are reserved only for statewide ballot measures relating to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and that Amendment 78 doesn’t qualify.
As a constitutional measure, Amendment 78 needs at least 55% of the vote to pass.
Backed by education-reform groups, Proposition 119 (“Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress,” formerly known as Initiative 25) would fund a $150 million statewide effort to provide tutoring aid to Colorado students by raising the sales tax rate on recreational marijuana from 15% to 20%.
“This first-in-the-nation initiative to help close the opportunity gap, which has only grown during the pandemic, is uniting Coloradans regardless of their political leanings or where they live,” former Republican Gov. Bill Owens said in a statement on the Yes on Prop 119 campaign last week. “That’s because they understand the futures of so many of our young people — who are our future employees, employers, and community leaders — are on the line.”
An opposition campaign, No on Prop 119, has received financial support from the nonprofit Taxpayers for Public Education. “Proposition 119 gives money to private education providers with no accountability or oversight,” reads No on Prop 119’s website. “There is no criteria as to what is a legitimate learning program. Our tax dollars could go to anyone or anything claiming to be an educational service.”
Backed by conservative nonprofit Colorado Rising State Action, Proposition 120 (“Property Tax Assessment Rate Reduction,” formerly known as Initiative 27) initially aimed to slash property taxes on homes and businesses, resulting in a $1 billion revenue shortfall for state and local budgets. But a bill passed by the Colorado General Assembly in the final days of the 2021 legislative session dramatically limited Proposition 120’s impact, by amending state law so that the ballot measure’s changes would apply only to multifamily residential units and commercial lodging properties.
Michael Fields, Colorado Rising State Action’s director, told the Denver Business Journal earlier this month that in the event that Proposition 120 passes, his group plans to file a lawsuit aimed at implementing the full amount of the tax cut as originally proposed.
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