The election season that seems to have gone on forever is about to conclude. I got my Blue Book last week, the county’s Gray Book will be arriving soon, and the county clerk starts mailing ballots Oct. 17. Prepare yourself: It’s going to be a very long one.
Not only are all the statewide offices on the ballot, so are seven countywide positions. Add to that eight state judges, 11 judges in our First Judicial District, 11 statewide ballot measures, and three referred by the Jefferson County commissioners.
Even for a political and policy wonk like me, it’s a bit overwhelming. However, we have three weeks to vote, so take the time to educate yourself and vote all the way to the end, where you will find some of the races and ballot measures that will affect you the most.
Top among them is Jeffco’s Question 1A, which would exclude some fees and state grants — not property taxes — from the TABOR cap, meaning the county could keep the money and not have to refund it to taxpayers. Treasurer Jerry DiTullio tells me he is about to mail $17.5 million in checks to Jeffco residents because the revenue the county received last year was more than it is allowed by TABOR to keep.
Meanwhile the county has been considering possible service cuts. Says Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper: “Fortunately, the money available to us through the American Rescue Plan Act provides relief for 2023, but budget challenges remain into the future.”
The Jeffco League of Women Voters writes in its letter of support for 1A: “We believe that Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution, (TABOR), undermines the philosophy of representative government and imposes severe restrictions that prevent an equitable and flexible system of taxation, and reduces the ability of elected officials to provide adequate funding for schools, highways, public safety and necessary social programs, even in times of economic prosperity.” I urge you to vote Yes on Question 1A.
The other county questions, 1B and 1C, would permit marijuana manufacturing and sales in the unincorporated part of the county, and allow the commissioners to impose a tax on these sales. Pot shops in Evergreen? You decide.
You’re going to have to decide on a lot of other issues, too. Should all public school children receive free lunches? Should a portion of state income taxes be dedicated to increasing the supply of affordable housing? Should grocery stores be able to sell wine? Should the state income tax rate be reduced again?
I strongly urge you to reject this one, Proposition 121. Voters passed Proposition 116 just two years ago, reducing the flat tax rate for individual and corporate incomes from 4.63% to 4.55%. This would reduce it again to 4.40%, cutting state revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars. Over half the benefit would go to those with incomes over $1 million. It would leave less money for K-12 and higher education, for courts and prisons, for public health and human services, and for highway maintenance.
Coloradans are not over-taxed. According to Ballotpedia, Colorado has the lowest per-capita tax collections of any adjacent state, at about 80% of the national average. One of the arguments for cutting taxes is that “Families and businesses are better off when they can keep more of their own money.” The fact is that families and businesses alone cannot provide a free education to all children, cannot fight crime, cannot deal with the opioid epidemic, cannot run elections and cannot protect our public lands. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.
It is up to us to make sure that our elected representatives are spending our money wisely. If you don’t have time to communicate with them or attend budget hearings, at least stay informed. Good sources of unbiased information are vote411.org and Ballotpedia.org. Above all, make the time, do your part for democracy, and vote your entire ballot.
Linda Rockwell moved to Evergreen with her family in 1982. She got involved in local land-use issues in 1984 and in the Democratic Party a few years later. She served as chair of the Jeffco Democrats from 1993 to 1997. Good government and principled politics remain her passion.
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