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Our View: No, no and no on state ballot measures

Voters should reject all three of this year’s ballot measures

Colorado voters are being asked to approve three ballot measures this fall. But like too many such efforts, those measures solve problems that do not exist, advance narrow agendas or are simply unnecessary. Voters should reject all three.

Amendment 78

Amendment 78 is a proposed change to the Colorado Constitution. As such, it needs to get 55% of the vote to pass. That is a deliberately high bar set by the voters in 2016 precisely to make it more difficult to amend the state Constitution.

This amendment would set up a fund to receive what is called custodial money and require that spending that money be approved by the Colorado Legislature. Custodial money is money the state gets – typically from the federal government or through court settlements – that is earmarked for specific purposes.

Sounds good. But beyond the fact that Amendment 78 would create another level of bureaucracy, consider how long the Legislature takes to act and what that might have meant for emergency pandemic funds.

Better yet, think of how federal transportation money might be distributed if that were decided by lawmakers – most of whom are from the Front Range. Colorado’s highway spending involves an elaborate system designed, in large part, to ensure that every part of the state gets its fair share. Amendment 78 could be seen as an attempt to scuttle that.

Say “no” to Amendment 78.

Proposition 119

Proposition 119 requires only a simple majority to pass. However, it too should be rejected. This proposal would raise the tax on marijuana to pay, in the state’s words, for “out-of-school learning opportunities like tutoring.” That too sounds good. Taxing pot is not a bad idea – although at some point, we might risk killing the golden goose – but why not put the money straight into schools? Why create another agency? Teachers fear this is a surreptitious move to use public money for private schools, and it may be. Funding private education efforts might be worthy of a discussion, but such a debate should be public and transparent – not buried in a tax on marijuana.

Vote “no” on Proposition 119.

Proposition 120

The final measure on this year’s ballot is Proposition 120 and it is the easiest to dismiss. This proposition would lower the property tax rate for “multifamily housing and lodging properties” – apartment houses, hotels, motels and so forth. It would not affect residential property.

So why do it? Does Hilton or Marriott need a break? Landlords?

There is no provision – or even serious suggestion – that lower taxes would be passed on as lower rents. There is the argument that this tax cut would result in more jobs. But hotels and motels cannot find enough workers as it is, and besides, those are not the kind of jobs Colorado needs.

What is certain is that lowering those property tax rates would harm some of our most valued services. Fire districts and libraries, for example, depend on that property tax revenue.

Proposition 120 is not even dressed up as a good idea. Vote “no.”