Just perhaps, there were too many tax-based initiatives on the general election ballot this year. Even though the Colorado economy is robust and unemployment is at an all-time low, it appears that in this year’s general election, much of Colorado was not in the mood to approve amendments or ballot issues that involved a property tax or sales tax funding mechanism.
There were a few bright spots: County residents narrowly approved the Chaffee County Conservation ballot issue 1A (see earlier article). They also approved Chaffee County Fire Protection District Ballot issue 6A – otherwise known as the Gallagher Revenue Stabilization Measure. The unofficial count: 2,868 for and 1,892 against it.
Residents, perhaps with painful memories of the frequent and sometimes days-long broadband outages that have plagued large sections of the county, approved 1B, restoring authority to Chaffee County to seek out and provide high-speed Internet and telecommunications. Chaffee County didn’t just approve the measure; 1B won in a four to one landslide. The unofficial count is 8,338 residents voted ‘yes” and 2,071 voted against the measure. Efforts to access grants through the Colorado Broadband Fund are already underway for under-served areas of the county like Chalk Creek Canyon.
In the case of state amendments and ballot measures – the results were disappointing to a wide swath of the electorate concerned about funding education, shoring up the state’s transportation infrastructure, and dealing with environmental concerns related to oil and gas exploration.
Amendments Y and Z – Congressional and Legislative Redistricting
Although the details of the vote aren’t yet known, it appears that unaffiliated voters may have had a hand in the cross-Colorado support for Amendments Y and Z. Their approval means that the redistricting of congressional and legislative boundaries will be placed in the hands of an independent (read non-political) commission. Both passed with more than 70 percent of voters approving the plan.
Amendment 73 – Funding for Public Schools
This went down to defeat, with 55.44 percent of state-wide voters voting against returning K-12 funding for public schools to anywhere near 2008 levels (including funding full-day kindergarten), while 44.56 percent supported the amendment. The local vote was closer: while 4,735 voted to fund public education, 5710 Chaffee County voters rejected the measure.
Amendment 74 – Compensation for fair market value
Common sense prevailed on this issue, as Colorado voters rejected the measure; with 53.58 percent voting “no” and 46.42 percent for the amendment. If it had passed it could have cost local and state government billions of dollars as law suits tied up most government-managed infrastructure projects.
Amendment 75 – Campaign contributions
This amendment, which sought to allow increased campaign contributions to people of modest means running for office, equalize the effects of wealthy candidates putting in their own money to their campaigns, was defeated. More than 66 percent of votes rejected it
Amendment Y – Marijuana definition
Some 60 percent of Coloradan were in a mood to approve changing the definition of industrial hemp from a constitutional definition to a statutory definition.
Ballot questions 109 and 110 – bonds and sales tax to fund transportation
In a crushing blow to rural counties, both transportation ballot initiatives went down to defeat. While 109 was a bond borrowing authority up to $3,5 billion to fund 66 specific highway projects, Proposition 110 was a comprehensive bill based on a state-wide ,062 percent sales tax. It included a formula that would have spread transportation funding to all 64 counties, directly to municipal and county government budgets for locally-directed projects, public transportation and multi-modal projects.
Some 61.4 percent of voters rejected Prop 109, while 59.6 percent rejected Prop. 110. In Chaffee County, which stood to receive $1.8 million in transportation funding for local projects, voters rejected 110: 6,680 against to 3,659. Metro Denver counties are already framing a Front-Range-only proposition for next year’s election, which has strong voter support.
Prop. 111 – Limiting interest on payday loans
While Prop. 111 got little attention,, this effort to reform the pay day loan industry in Colorado was successful. More than 76 percent of Coloradans agreed that loan rates should be limited to a 36 percent annual percentage rate. Chaffee County voted heavily for it as well: 7812 to 2397. Poor families, military personnel and the unbanked make large use of payday loans to stretch monthly budgets, but end up prey to predatory lending practices.
Prop. 112 – oil and gas setbacks
State wide, Colorado voters rejected this proposition . Some 56.6 percent of voters said “no” to increasing the current 500 foot setback for oil and gas development to 2,500 feet from homes and schools. The campaign for the ballot question had extensive outside funding from the energy sector and significant community support from counties like Weld County which has significant economic activity from oil and gas exploration. Voters in Chaffee County, which has little oil or gas reserves very narrowly rejected it: 5,360 to 5,224.