Colorado Ballot 2010

Thankfully, the list of statewide ballot initiatives facing Colorado voters in 2010 is shorter than in 2008. Here are my thoughts and insights on each of the measures. Here’s who I am if you want to know where I’m coming from. Two of my primary sources for information on the ballot measures are the official Colorado blue book produced by the state legislative staff and Ballotpedia.

As they are made available, I will post below links to ballot guides from others whose opinions and insights I respect, though we all won’t completely agree:

(Disclaimer: All opinions expressed below are solely those of the author and not necessarily of any group with which he is affiliated.) Without further ado, here are my recommendations and accompanying explanations for each of the proposals on Colorado’s 2010 ballot. First, the less compelling issues — the proposed constitutional amendments referred by the state legislature:

  • Amendment P, Regulation of Games of Chance: YES. I have no strong feelings either way, but the Blue Book arguments provide the key clue to why the legislature overwhelmingly recommended this measure. A more recent 2008 report found that transferring the oversight of bingo gaming to the Department of Revenue “would be more practical and efficient,” while a less convincing 2007 report said the Department of State was doing okay.
  • Amendment Q, Temporary Location for the Seat of Government: YES. Yes, the very topic of discussion provokes giggles at the thought of a Dr. Strangelove-like underground war room scene. But really it boils down to the fact that it just makes sense to have an official plan to relocate the seat of government in case of a disaster.
  • Amendment R, Exempt Possessory Interests in Real Estate: YES. Several liberal House Democrats voted against this commonsense proposal to eliminate the administrative burden of collecting tiny “possessory interest” fees from those who minimally use government-owned land for private purposes. Need I say more?

Next, the citizen-proposed constitutional amendments, which collectively have attracted far more attention:

  • Amendment 60, Property Taxes: NO. Combined with the current Amendment 23 regime, the result would be dramatically greater state funding of, and control of, K-12 education. I heard a proponent say we need to reduce the local property tax burden so school funding is more balanced. But as it stands now, more state tax dollars than local tax dollars fund Colorado schools. Why not just put forward a repeal of Ritter’s mill levy freeze instead? There are alternatives besides 60 or the status quo.
  • Amendment 61, Limits on State and Local Government Borrowing: NO. While many Colorado governments have a serious long-term debt problem, the restrictions on local government borrowing are overly stringent and unrealistic. Some of the opponents’ concerns about negative impacts to transportation infrastructure and charter school facilities are legitimate. Why not just shore up the constitution to crack down on the state’s use of Certificates of Participation to get around bonded debt restrictions? There are alternatives besides 61 or the status quo. (Sense a pattern?)
  • Amendment 62, Application of the Term Person: YES.
  • Amendment 63, Health Care Choice: YES. Full disclosure: I work for the Independence Institute, which supports this measure. But I also believe in it wholeheartedly. Read this Denver Post op-ed if you still aren’t sure why adding health care choice to Colorado’s Bill of Rights is a good thing. More information to refute opponents’ arguments can be found here on the Patient Power blog.

Finally, the citizen-proposed changes to state statutes, which are not without controversy:

  • Proposition 101, Income, Vehicle and Telecommunication Taxes and Fees: NO. Kill a lot of those stupid telephone taxes? Hooray! Gradually roll back the state income tax by a percentage point? Unless done in tandem with Amendment 60, it could be a good thing. Slash the total vehicle registration and tax to only 10 dollars a year… why not just repeal Bill Ritter’s FASTER car tax instead? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there are alternatives to either 101 or the status quo.
  • Proposition 102, Criteria for Release to Pretrial Service Programs: NO. The initiative is sponsored by the for-profit bail bond industry and opposed by pretty much everyone else. Having consulted the experts on this issue that I trust the most, I see no need to get rid of the existing effective pretrial service programs. It also appears that 102 would add to the State Corrections budget, which definitely isn’t needed at this time.

This won’t apply for a lot of people out there, but the Arvada Fire Protection District has proposed a mill levy increase known as Amendment 5A. A shock to some, perhaps, but I don’t have knee-jerk reactions against all local tax hikes. And I can sympathize with the tight budgets the fire department faces. Yet why do they need a 55 percent increase on this part of my property tax? Until I can get a clear and satisfactory answer (I wrote the campaign on October 5 to ask for one), I’m going with a NO vote on this local issue. [Update: Almost two weeks has gone by without a response. I’ve voted NO and urge others to do the same.]

For those interested, my candidate selections are below: