There are lots of ways to analyze state and local politics, and most are curiously unproductive — at least from a business standpoint.
Are Republicans pro-business? Are Democrats anti-business? Are those Boulder liberals hare-brained radicals or shrewd entrepreneurs? Also, why has Denver eaten our lunch for decades?
And is downtown finally beginning to prosper because of Mayor John Suthers and a sensible council majority? Conversely, did do-nothing, pro-suburban majorities on City Council and the Board of County Commissioners inhibit downtown development for years?
The multiple intersections between business and politics are always part of public debate and business consciousness, especially in election years. This might be the year of Donald and Hillary, but it’s also a year of uncontrollable, unknowable and even unthinkable variables at the state level.
Forget Don and Hill, or even Michael Bennet vs. Republican-to-be-named. There are three initiated nastyburger constitutional amendments that might be on the state ballot. Any of them could dramatically change the state’s business climate, so you’d better be ready to comply, flee or hire a Panamanian attorney.
Let’s start with the business apocalypse, Amendment 69. If you own a business, work for a business, patronize a business or in any way participate in daily life, you’d better understand this one. If approved, it’ll completely upend health care in Colorado.
Amendment 69 would establish a state-owned and operated universal health care system, sweeping away most of the private health insurance industry. Everybody without Medicare or Medicaid would be covered. There would be no insurance premiums, no going bankrupt from hospital bills, no lapsed coverage.
Proponents claim that it will save Coloradans money by eliminating insurance intermediaries, inflated administrative costs, and price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies.
Opponents contest all these claims, warning that the state will lose hundreds of thousands of jobs, health care providers will leave in droves and the state’s economic boom will be replaced by an epic economic disaster.
One thing is certain: It won’t be cheap.
“Funding for Amendment 69 will come primarily from an additional 10 percent tax on all earned income generated in Colorado,” the Denver Post editorialized. “All employees will pay a 3.33 percent tax and their employers will pay 6.67 percent tax, regardless of employment status (full-time, part-time, seasonal, per diem, etc.) or resident status.
Citizens earning non-payroll income will pay a 10 percent tax on business income, rental income, farm and ranch income, taxable pensions, taxable Social Security, taxable interest, dividends, taxable refunds and credits, capital gains, taxable IRA distributions and other income.”
This strange, ambitious project may be best understood as the modern version of 15th century witchcraft, an ill-considered remedy for a complex ailment. Remember the three witches gathered around the cauldron:
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing, —
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
The future is less certain for the “Your Choice” proposed amendment. The General Assembly passed a bill at the end of the session that would allow for full-strength beer and wine in retail stores like Walmart and King Soopers, phasing in the change slowly with more regulations.
Even if Gov. John Hickenlooper signs the bill, or lets it become law without his signature, the fight could be over. We’ll know Hickenlooper’s thoughts pretty soon — the deadline comes to an end today. My guess: Hick will allow the bill to become law without his signature, signifying his mixed feelings about the law. He told the Colorado Press Association that he was willing to fight, but his talks with craft brewers around the state indicated that they were afraid of a ballot initiative that would leave them no time to prepare.
But some of the national retailers don’t like the bill either — so “Your Choice” might be on ballots regardless.
Finally, consider the “Raise the Bar” amendment, which aims to prevent measures like the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Amendment 69 from getting on the ballot. By requiring that signatures putting any amendment on the ballot be collected throughout the state and mandating a supermajority of 55 percent at the polls, Raise the Bar would both block future amendments and freeze the status quo.
Should both 69 and Raise the Bar pass, we’d be stuck. In this populist environment, both debt-burdened Millennials and insurance–burdened seniors too young for Medicare may join hands to pass Amendment 69. And if so, maybe President Trump will bail us out, right?
He won’t? Just because we supported Ted Cruz in the caucuses and Hillary in the election? I definitely need a full-strength beer.