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Colorado’s 11 ballot measures ended up being a split verdict

Fiscal conservatives grabbed wins, but liberal-leaning measures also made it
People vote by dropping off their ballots Monday on the final day before Election Day in Denver.

Colorado voters made decisions on a roster of major policy positions that liberal and conservative interests put on the 2020 ballot.

The results look certain in all but one question – whether to reintroduce gray wolves. Proposition 114 remained separated by 0.3 percentage points, or less than 10,000 votes at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

A number of the questions appeared confusing to voters – particularly the fiscal ones – and tens of thousands voted on the top candidates but not the ballot measures, an analysis shows.

Here’s a look at what voters decided – and a first glance at what it means.

Amendment B: To repeal the Gallagher Amendment governing property taxes

Colorado voters approved Amendment B and jettisoned the Gallagher Amendment in a landslide, repealing the landmark constitutional provision that has delivered more than $35 billion in property tax cuts to homeowners and fundamentally reshaped government spending over the last four decades.

The results represent a major victory for top state lawmakers, business leaders and liberal fiscal reform advocates who have been trying for years to get voters to relax some of Colorado’s unique constitutional restraints on taxes and public spending.

The decision prevents an estimated $491 million in cuts to school districts and another $204 million in cuts to county governments next year, amid a financial crisis that could get worse as coronavirus cases spike across the state. Those figures don’t include the potential impact on cities or special districts that provide essential services like fire protection and health care if Gallagher remained in place.

In exchange, voters will be giving up an estimated 18% residential property tax cut that was expected to take effect in 2021. For homeowners and renters that means forgoing some financial relief even as the pandemic and economic crisis enters a new phase.

The next step: Colorado lawmakers need to create a new formula for how to levy property taxes.

Amendment C: To expand the ability of nonprofits to conduct bingo and raffle fundraisers

Amendment C didn’t get much attention – and it may have cost supporters. The measure would ease dated laws regulating charitable bingo and raffles to make them easier for nonprofits to conduct.

The 52% support is not enough to pass, however. It requires 55% approval because it adds language to the Colorado Constitution.

Amendment 76: To limit voting to citizens over age 18

A Colorado ballot measure seeking to limit voting rights from expanding is headed to victory – and a raft of potential additional consequences.

With more than 60% support, it passed the 55% threshold for approval because it changes the state Constitution.

The amendment sought to change language in the Colorado Constitution to “only a citizen” being eligible to vote. Technically, this was already the law in Colorado. To be eligible to vote, someone must be a U.S. citizen with residency in the state.

But the Colorado Votes Act, which passed the legislature in 2019 and was first used this year, allows those who will be 18 years old by the time of the general election to vote in party primaries earlier in the year. How this constitutional amendment impacts that law remains unclear.

Amendment 77: To allow casino towns legal authority to set limits on gaming

Voters on Tuesday allowed Colorado’s three gambling towns to grow their casinos, as Amendment 77 passed.

The amendment gives voters in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk the authority to increase maximum bets beyond the $100 limit allowed in 2008 and to add new games beyond slots, blackjack, poker, roulette and craps. Almost all the financial support for the measure – more than $4 million – has come from the three largest casino operators in Black Hawk: Caesars Entertainment, Penn National and Monarch Casino Resort.

And voters in those Colorado’s gambling hamlets on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed the state plan, giving gamblers unlimited bet limits and handing local councils the authority to approve new games. Cripple Creek voters approved the city’s 2A measure by a vote of 266 to 97. Voters in Central City approved their 2B measure 219 to 78, and Black Hawk voters approved that city’s 2A measure by 50 to 11, preliminary results show.

Proposition EE: To increase tobacco and nicotine taxes to generate money for state budget and preschool

Coloradans who use cigarettes and other products that contain nicotine will start paying more in taxes in January and increases through July 2027 after the overwhelming approval of Proposition EE.

The new law aims to generate revenue for state priorities – first for education, housing and rural schools, all of which were affected by a $3 billion cut to the state budget earlier this year. Starting in fiscal year 2023-24, the majority of the revenue would flow toward preschool access for 4-year-olds.

Proposition 113: To join the national popular vote compact

In a national first, Colorado voters gave the go-ahead to the national popular vote movement and a change in the way the U.S. picks presidents.

Voters upheld a 2019 law that entered Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, whose member states pledge their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the most votes across the country. But it doesn’t take effect until more states join, meaning there’s no immediate impact.

By midday Wednesday, proponents of the measure declared victory. “We hope the results in Colorado will go a long way in convincing other states to come on board with the National Popular Vote too,” said state Sen. Mike Foote, a Lafayette Democrat who is a lead proponent of the national popular vote law.

The Associated Press then called the race Wednesday afternoon in the proponents’ favor.

The ballot measure is the first time voters have been asked to confirm or repeal a law since 1932, when a tax increase on oleomargarine was rolled back.

Proposition 114: To reintroduce wolves in Colorado

The reintroduction of wolves is one of the tightest contests on Tuesday’s ballot, but it looks like voters will narrowly approve Proposition 114. It remains unclear if the margin is close enough for a recount.

The measure would direct Colorado Parks and Wildlife to come up with a plan to reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope by the end of 2023.

The early voting results showed a split along urban and rural lines in Colorado, with voters in eight of 11 Front Range counties approving the measure, while the state’s more rural counties on the plains and Western Slope leaned away.

Proposition 115: To prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy

Colorado rejected Proposition 115, which would have banned abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

Both supporters and opponents of Proposition 115 had predicted a tight battle over what supporters of the ban call “late-term abortion,” but opponents declared victory about an hour after the polls closed.

“We voted no because we trust patients and families to make the personal medical decisions that are right for them, without political interference,” Vote No on 115 campaign manager Lucy Olena said. “We voted no to keep Colorado a safe haven for abortion access because no one should have to cross borders to get the medical care they need.”

Coloradans have since 2008 swiftly defeated three other ballot measures that attempted to limit abortions.

Proposition 116: To reduce the state income tax to 4.55%

Colorado voters approved a small, across-the-board cut to the state’s income tax rate, permanently reducing taxes for individuals and businesses, but adding to the state’s budget challenges.

The measure reduces the state income tax rate to 4.55% from 4.63%, providing Coloradans some minor financial relief amid the ongoing economic crisis. That represents a 1.7% cut, or a savings of about $37 annually for the average taxpayer, and takes effect in the 2020 tax year.

Proposition 117: To put a limit on the ability of state lawmakers to impose certain fees

Proponents of Proposition 117 declared a narrow victory Tuesday night. The measure would create TABOR-like restrictions on their government officials, requiring lawmakers to seek voter approval for the creation of certain fee-based programs.

Common examples of these government enterprises include water utilities, parks or toll roads that are funded primarily by user fees rather than taxes.

Backers of the measure say Proposition 117 is needed to rein in state lawmakers, who have increasingly turned to fees to fund government services since the passage of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Fees have multiplied at least in part because – unlike taxes – they aren’t governed by TABOR’s voter-consent requirements.

Proposition 118: To create a new state paid family and medical leave program

By a clear margin, Colorado voters created a statewide paid-leave program for workers who want time off to have a baby or care for a sick loved one.

The measure requires workers and employers to pay into an insurance pool run by the Colorado Department of Labor. Beginning in 2024, workers could apply to the fund to receive pay during time off from work, up to $1,100 per week.

The program is for all workers, including state employees, people who are self-employed, and even gig workers who drive for Uber or food-delivery companies. Workers are eligible after they’ve earned $2,500 at their job. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees can choose not to participate and companies that already offer comparable paid time off for new babies or illnesses are exempt.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.

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