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Our View: ‘Yes’ to Amendment D

This fall's ballot question Amendment D, if it passes, will be added to Colorado's Constitution. It is a specific provision tied to one judicial district, is necessary and should be approved.

Colorado’s newly formed 23rd Judicial District –Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties roughly southeast between Denver and Colorado Springs – is a portion of the current 18th District and there are residency issues for its judges.

A “yes” vote will allow the governor to reassign judges to the 23rd, making it operational. Under the Constitution, the state is divided into judicial districts, so voters statewide must vote on changes or additions to any district’s composition.

The Durango Herald and The Journal’s editorial board seldom supports additions to the state's overly-detailed and difficult to change Constitution. But this is one that needs a “yes” vote.

Voters are being asked to reduce their income tax rate about 3.3% with the passage of Proposition 121. The question reduces the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%.

Proponents of the reduction point to the excess revenue that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is returning to taxpayers this year, and will next year. Colorado's post-pandemic economy is strong. Because of TABOR, the state cannot spend extra revenue or retain more than a spending increase of inflation plus population growth.

If this were a proposed sales tax reduction, we would be supportive. Income taxes are paid by those who earn and can pay taxes from earnings. Those who earn the most pay the most, which means, not surprisingly, that a rate reduction benefits high earners. According to the state ballot information booklet – the “blue book” – those making a million dollars or more will receive almost half the total tax savings – an average of about $7,000.

Reduced sales taxes would benefit lower-income residents to a much greater degree.

A reduction of 0.15% means a savings of $47 for those making $40,000 to $50,000, and $89 for those making $70,000 to $1,000,000.

Not a lot, in other words. Better to retain the 4.55% rate and make refunds, if required.

While Colorado is having some good years, that may not last. Refunds came only occasionally since voters put TABOR into place in 1992. The state, along with the world, is also in the midst of severe inflation. How long will government be faced with higher costs?

We say vote “no” on Proposition 121.

We hold Colorado’s Constitution, the foundation of our state’s laws and government, as an esteemed document. It’s something we’d rather not see altered unless a ballot measure calls for it. Although we don’t doubt the importance of any initiative that comes before voters, we’re scratching our heads a little bit on Amendment F, Changes to the Charitable Gaming Operations.

Amendment F would amend the Constitution, reducing from five to three the minimum number of years a nonprofit must be operating in the state to apply for a bingo-raffle license, and authorizes the state Legislature to set a different requirement in 2025. A “yes” vote allows bingo-raffle workers to be paid, too.

We get that bingo-raffle gaming funds many nonprofits to do good work. Allowing bingo-raffle workers to be paid during games could tie the hands of nonprofits and cut into into money for their unique missions. Permitting less-established nonprofits to run bingo-raffle games doesn’t seem a worthy enough reason to amend the Constitution at this time.

It’s not that we’re against it, so much, as we’re not on fire for it. Vote “no” on Amendment F.

Saying the Colorado Constitution is practically sacrosanct, we’d better have a pretty good reason to want to change it. And we do. It’s Amendment E.

Amendment E makes this grade by reducing property taxes for surviving spouses of U.S. Armed Forces service members who died in the line of duty and vets who died as a result of service-related injuries or diseases. The existing homestead exemption for disabled vets would expand to include these surviving spouses, of which there are an estimated 490. We can’t help but be swayed.

Losing a spouse can amount to a new level of financial stress and an expanded tax exemption would offset expenses. Currently, spouses of 100% disabled vets keep the homestead exemption when vets die, but there is no exemption if spouses are killed while serving in the military. Amendment E addresses that inconsistency and rights this wrong.

Amendment E reduces taxes only for Gold Star spouses who are financially able to own homes. This measure has us wondering what else Colorado could do for these spouses?

For now, vote “yes” on Amendment E.