Ballot measure seeks to give Colorado voters ‘full picture’ of future tax changes with income table

Proposition GG was referred to the ballot by Democrats in the General Assembly

By: - October 4, 2022 4:00 am

Members of the Colorado House of Representatives on May 9, 2022. (Pema Baldwin for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado’s 2022 ballot features a measure that could have major implications for future voter-approved changes to the state’s income tax code.

If approved, Proposition GG would add a table breaking down proposed income tax changes by income level to future ballot measures, providing the “full picture” of their impact and potentially overcoming a hurdle that has long frustrated progressive tax reformers.

Under current law, tax initiatives receive a fiscal analysis by nonpartisan state legislative staff, including a table summarizing changes by income level, which is included in the statewide ballot information booklet, or “Blue Book,” each election year. Proposition GG would change the composition of the table and require it to be placed directly in a measure’s title. That would mean the information appears both on the signature-gathering petitions circulated by the initiative’s backers and, if it qualifies, on voters’ November ballots.


“Tax policy is often complicated, but it affects us all, and voters have a right to know how their individual family will be impacted as well as how it will impact the state,” Cameron Hill of Colorado Common Cause, a campaign-finance reform group, said in a statement. “In Colorado, we vote on every change to our taxes so it’s vital that voters get the full picture. Proposition GG will increase transparency on our ballots and provide voters with clear, unbiased information.”

Proposition GG was referred to the ballot by Democrats in the Legislature, who passed Senate Bill 22-222 by party-line votes in both chambers earlier this year. The legislation followed a more limited “voter transparency” bill passed by Democrats and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in 2021.

Tax policy is often complicated, but it affects us all, and voters have a right to know how their individual family will be impacted as well as how it will impact the state.

– Cameron Hill of Colorado Common Cause

But Polis, who has often taken conservative positions on fiscal policy — including support for eliminating Colorado’s income tax altogether — indicated he wouldn’t sign a bill containing the income table requirement, SB-222 sponsors said. As a referred statutory measure, Proposition GG did not require Polis’ signature and will become law if a majority of Colorado voters approve it.

If Proposition GG passes, future tax-cut initiatives backed by Colorado conservative groups could appear much different on voters’ ballots. For example, if GG’s requirements were applied to Proposition 121, the income tax cut that will appear alongside it on the 2022 ballot, voters would be informed that most of its benefits will go to those with higher incomes, with a median earner receiving a tax cut of less than $100 a year.

A blank table showing what information would be required on ballots for future income tax measures, if Colorado voters approve Proposition GG in 2022. (Legislative Council Staff)

The same would apply to potential future income tax hikes. Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a 1992 anti-tax constitutional amendment, all ballot measures that seek to raise tax revenue must begin with language, in all capital letters, stating the annual or total amount of the tax increase — regardless of how the burden is distributed.

That requirement meant that even Initiative 271, a 2020 proposal by progressive groups that aimed to cut taxes for all Coloradans making under $250,000 while gradually raising them for higher income brackets, began: “SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $2,000,000,000 ANNUALLY …” The measure failed to qualify for the ballot.

Conservative backers of Proposition 121, including the Denver-based Independence Institute, oppose Proposition GG, arguing that its purpose is already served by the information contained in the Blue Book. Path to Zero, an issue committee affiliated with the Independence Institute, has registered with the Colorado secretary of state’s office to oppose Proposition GG and other 2022 ballot measures backed by progressives.

“Frustrated by recent citizen ballot initiatives to reduce income taxes, proponents of big government believe having such a table in the ballot title will persuade more voters to oppose future income tax rate cuts,” the Independence Institute wrote in its 2022 voter guide.

An issue committee supporting Proposition GG, Coloradans for Ballot Transparency, was registered in April. It has received $755,000 in campaign contributions, topped by a $500,000 donation from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4), “dark money” nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors.

A poll conducted last month by the Yes on GG campaign found that 67% of likely Colorado voters supported the measure, with just 13% opposed.


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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.