Colorado voters reject all three statewide ballot measures

The measures included a marijuana tax increase, property tax decrease and a constitutional amendment

By: - November 2, 2021 10:34 pm

A polling and ballot drop-off location at Pueblo Community College on Nov. 2, 2021. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

All three statewide measures on the ballot in Colorado failed on Tuesday night, preliminary results show.

As of 10 p.m. on Nov. 2, the secretary of state’s office reported counting 1.1 million ballots.

Proposition 119

Voters rejected a proposal that would have created revenue for out-of-school programming.

Proposition 119 asked voters if they want to increase the recreational marijuana tax rate from 15% to 20% in order to fund after-school programs and tutoring. That tax increase would have taken effect over the next three years and generate approximately $137.6 million per year, according to state analysts. 

It would have created the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress program, run by a new independent agency. Low-income families would have received $1,500 per year per student to put towards approved out-of-school school programs. 

Preliminary results showed that approximately 46% of voters were in favor of the proposition and 54% were against. 

Though our support across the state was broad, Prop 119 was voted down. We vow not to give up on Colorado kids in our efforts to close the opportunity gap, especially after pandemic-fueled learning loss,” the issue committee in favor of the proposition posted on its Facebook page after admitting defeat.

That group raised over $2.6 million leading up to the election and spent nearly $2.4 million, mostly on outreach and advertising. The bulk of that fundraising came from Gary Community Investment Company, of which former state Sen. Mike Johnston is the president and CEO. 

The measure enjoyed support from Colorado Democrats such as Gov. Jared Polis, former Gov. Bill Ritter, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb, former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and state Sen. Rhonda Fields as well as Republicans like former Gov. Bill Owen and state Sen. Bob Gardner. 

Judy Solano, a former Democratic state representative who helped lead the opposition, said that Colorado voters “realized that taking money away from public schools is not the answer for learning.”

“Creating a new government bureaucracy that would put the public school money into the hands of private providers is also not a way to go. So we are thrilled for the defeat of 119 tonight,” she said.

The registered committees opposed to the proposition raised a combined haul of approximately $60,000. 

People handing out “I voted” stickers at the ballot drop off box outside the El Paso County Clerk’s Office in Colorado Springs on Nov. 2, 2021 (Julia Fennell/Colorado Newsline)

Proposition 120

A conservative-backed proposal to reduce property taxes failed by a significant margin. 

Proposition 120 asked voters to decide whether to cut property taxes for multifamily residential properties and lodging properties. 

It would have reduced the property tax assessments for those residential properties from 7.15% to 6.5% and for the lodging properties from 29% to 26.4%. That was intended to reduce annual property tax revenue by over $1 billion. 

As of 10 p.m. with 1.1 million ballots counted, approximately 43% of voters were in favor of the proposition and 57% were against. It was defeated even in conservative strongholds like Mesa, El Paso and Douglas counties.

“I’m more surprised by 120. I think there was a lot of confusion after the Legislature passed what they did and it’s different than what the Blue Book said. People probably came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a tax cut for them,” said Michael Fields, who leads the group that led the push for the proposition.

Initially, the proposition wanted to reduce property taxes across the board, but a bill passed by the General Assembly limited the effect of the ballot measure by creating new subcategories of property. 

“It’s precedent for the Legislature to meddle in citizens’ initiatives,” Fields said. “But I don’t think the property tax discussion is done at all.”

The issue committee Cut Property Taxes raised over $1.5 million, including big donations from Unite for Colorado, Colorado Rising State Action and a Denver-based apartment association. 

Amie Baca-Oehlert, the president of the Colorado Education Association, called the proposition’s defeat “very hopeful news.”

“I think it certainly speaks to the fact that Coloradans understand and have said pretty loudly that they want a Colorado where we value our public services like public education, reliable emergency response and a prosperous economy that works for all of us,” she said. “I think this shows that the special interests and their corporate greed lost their fight tonight to rig our tax codes to benefit them even more. Slashing funding for these things we value is not something we want to do.”

Amendment 78

The other Republican-backed measure, Amendment 78, revolved around how much control state lawmakers have over outside funding sources, such as federal grant money and outside donations, known as “custodial funds.” 

It was defeated with approximately 56% of voters against it as of 10 p.m.

Currently, those custodial funds are spent by the state treasurer. Amendment 78 sought to transfer that power to the General Assembly and require the body to appropriate all sources of state funding.

As a constitutional amendment, it needed 55% voter approval to pass.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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