2020 ballot issues discussed at virtual election forum
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of State Sen. Faith Winter’s name.
KEYSTONE — With a little less than a month until Election Day, Summit County voters are having to make up their minds on a wide variety of ballot issues.
At a virtual election forum hosted by the Summit Daily News on Tuesday, Oct. 6, community members and campaign representatives voiced their opinions on 10 issues.
Amendment B: Gallagher Amendment repeal
Since its inception in 1982, the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution has been a point of contention between government officials wanting to secure funding and taxpayers wanting to keep property tax rates low.
The amendment requires that residential property taxes make up no more than 45% of the state’s tax base, with nonresidential properties making up 55%. When home values rise faster than business property values, the state maintains the ratio by cutting the residential assessment percentage. Since Gallagher was first enacted, the percentage has been cut from 21% to 7.15% in 2020.
If it passes, Amendment B will repeal the Gallagher Amendment, removing the 45-55 requirement and securing assessment rates as they are now. According to the ballot question, the tax rates help preserve funding for local fire protection, police, ambulance, hospital, K-12 education and more.
“Please understand, all across Colorado, there are many communities that are going to lose their school services, they’re going to lose their county services, they’re going to lose their fire services and ambulatory services,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson, a proponent of the amendment.
However, some believe the state Legislature should look at a regional solution that would help rural areas that are most affected by the revenue decline.
“We need a regional solution where we can come up with something that works better for those rural areas,” said Lindsey Singer, spokesperson for Colorado Rising Action. “That’s something the Legislature should work on, but full-on repealing Gallagher is the wrong move here.”
Measure 1A: Summit County Gallagher Amendment override
As a result of a decreasing residential property tax assessment caused by the Gallagher Amendment, the Summit County government forecasts a $5.5 million drop in revenue for 2022.
To make up for that drop, the county hopes to gain the ability to adjust its mill levies in order to maintain a residential property tax percentage higher than the rest of the state.
Government officials have said that the loss in revenue will impact funding for essential services.
“If we don’t vote ‘yes’ on 1A, what you will see … will be the defunding and cuts to the very programs that you all thought were so important here that you voted ‘yes’ to fund,” Davidson said in reference to Strong Future and other ballot measures to increase taxes that voters approved in the past.
While the county government argues that passing the measure is crucial to maintaining necessary funding, others believe the county should make up for the loss by tightening the budget.
“A ‘no’ vote is not about the value of various county services; it’s about finally holding our politicians accountable for lack of discipline and prioritizing program spending,” said Mike Tabb, chair of Summit County Republicans.
Amendment 76: Citizenship requirement for voting
Currently, the Colorado Constitution says that “every U.S. Citizen” who is 18 years old can vote in an election.
If Amendment 76 passes, the language in the constitution would change to say that “only U.S. Citizens” who are 18 years old can vote in an election.
“This effort is meant to, and will, suppress the votes of people who are naturalized U.S. citizens and the votes of U.S. citizens of color by sowing confusion in these communities about just who is eligible to vote by intimidating and discouraging them,” said Peter Bakken, executive director of Mountain Dreamers and opponent of the amendment.
Proponents argue that the change in wording would remove ambiguity surrounding the definition of a “citizen.”
“Voting is a basic and very fundamental right that we want to make sure is enshrined in the Colorado Constitution that those that can vote either are a native citizen or a naturalized citizen,” said Joe Stengel, registered agent for the amendment.
Head to SummitDaily.com/election for information about voter registration, candidates, election results and more.
Proposition 113: National popular vote interstate compact
If passed, Proposition 113 would have Colorado join the list of states committed to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
The Colorado Legislature and Gov. Jared Polis already approved Senate Bill 19-042, which adds the state to the compact. The proposition solidifies that bill. A “yes” vote would have Colorado commit its nine electors to the person who wins the popular vote in the election for president.
“Proposition 113 is about democracy as a sacred right in our republic and the principle that every vote should count,” said Maggie Murray, a proponent of the proposition.
Some argue that the proposition will eliminate Colorado’s voice in national elections.
“I would much rather talk to my fellow Coloradans than try to influence people in California and New York,” Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said. “Colorado’s votes for president should stay with Coloradans in Colorado.”
Proposition 114: Gray wolf reintroduction
If passed, Proposition 114 would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan for reintroducing and managing gray wolves west of the Continental Divide.
The proposition requires the commission to implement a plan for the reintroduction of wolves after holding statewide hearings and using scientific data.
Some believe the proposition is a waste of Colorado resources and taxpayer money, as gray wolves have been recently sighted within Colorado.
“This is not the time, in the middle of a pandemic and economic ruin resulting from it, to spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars … introducing this species that was already here,” said Shawn Martini, vice president of advocacy with the Colorado Farm Bureau.
However, proponents argue that the reintroduction of the wolves will bring more balance to the state’s ecosystem.
“When you remove an apex predator the remaining wildlife on the landscape starts to get out of balance,” said Jim Pribyl, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund. “Restoring wolves restores balance to nature.”
Proposition 116: State income tax rate reduction
Colorado’s current income tax rate is set at 4.63%. If proposition 116 passes, that rate will be dropped to 4.55%.
While the change to the tax rate will save people money, some worry it will cause a loss in funding for state resources.
“Tax cuts do not grow the economy, that has been proven since the 1980s,” said Halisi Vinson, who is opposed to the proposition. “Investments improve the economy.”
Proponents of the proposition argue the tax cut will lead to relief for families and businesses during the pandemic.
“It’s no secret that the most timely and significant barrier we face today is the current economic recession,” said Patrick McConnell, who represented Americans for Prosperity Colorado. “Families and businesses all over the state are struggling to make ends meet, and this November we can help by voting ‘yes’ on Proposition 116.”
Proposition 118: Paid medical and family leave
If passed, Proposition 118, would create an insurance program to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave benefits to eligible employees in Colorado.
In order to pay for the program, the state would require a 0.9% premium on employee’s wages through Dec. 31, 2024. After that, the premium would be set at up to 1.2% of each employee’s wages.
Employers would be able to deduct up to 50% of the premium amount from an employee’s pay and be required to pay the remaining 50%.
“This is good for our economy,” state Sen. Faith Winter said. “It’s reliable, it’s predictable, and it means we’re not sending moms back to work two weeks after giving birth.”
Some say the proposition will cost too much money for employers.
“Our businesses are in a time where they are struggling to recover,” said Kristi Pollard, who opposes the proposition. “Now is not the time to put an undue burden on our employers and our employees.”
Measure 7A: Colorado River Water Conservation District mill levy
If passed, Measure 7A would increase taxes to about $1.90 per $100,000 in assessed property value in 2021 to secure funding for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
With the money, the district will fight to keep water on the Western Slope, protect adequate water supplies for area farmers and ranchers, protect sustainable drinking water supplies, and maintain river levels and water quality to protect fish, wildlife and recreation.
Measure 7A would increase the total tax revenue up to $4,961,041 in 2021 if passed, which will be necessary for water preservation on the Western Slope, proponents say.
“Since 1937 the river district has been our advocate, supporting projects to protect and improve our water supplies and streams and when necessary litigating to keep West Slope water on the West Slope,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said.
Issue 6A: Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District sales tax
If passed, Issue 6A would implement a districtwide sales tax up to 4% within the Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District. The revenue from the tax would be used for safety protection, street improvements and transportation services, according to the ballot language.
The sales tax would go into place July 1.
“If the sales tax measure does not pass, the district must reduce the level of existing services or see property tax increases or possibly both,” District Manager Shellie Duplan said.
Issue 6B: Lake Dillon Fire District consolidation
Voters who live within the Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District will have to decide whether they want their homes to be included in the Lake Dillon Fire District.
If approved, taxes paid for fire mitigation services would go directly to Summit Fire & EMS, which covers the area, and the measure wouldn’t cost property owners anything additional in taxes.
“This measure will have no effect on the staffing or response out of the Copper Mountain Fire Station whatsoever,” Summit Fire & EMS Chief Travis Davis said. “The station will continue to be staffed 24/7, 365.”
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