Colorado voters may have been bullish on Democrats when it came to the races for governor and many legislature positions, but they soundly rejected several proposed ballot measures.
The Business Journal sought comments from Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, local political experts and professors at local colleges on the results of voting on Amendments 73 and 74 and Propositions 109 and 110, all of which failed at the polls on Nov. 6.
Suthers issued a statement last night regarding the governor’s race.
“On behalf of the City of Colorado Springs, I look forward to working with Jared Polis on shared priorities for our state and specifically on matters of importance to our community to include infrastructure improvements and economic vitality,” Suthers said. “I am confident that Mr. Polis, like his predecessor, will be supportive of our city’s positive growth and development, and I wish him a smooth transition into this important office.”
Sarah McMahon, a journalism and English professor at Pikes Peak Community College, said the election in general generated a lot of discussion among her students.
“I incorporated the midterms into my English classes this year,” McMahon said. “We talked about issues, … and voting came up in my classes. I asked [the students] if they would get registered and vote. A lot of them felt quite disenfranchised and didn’t understand the issues and how to go about voting.”
After discussions about where to find information on candidates and issues, McMahon said she thought many of the students were motivated to register and vote.
“I saw the fire in them,” she said. “Many of them have registered and voted for the first time.”
Elsa Dias, a professor of political science at PPCC, said she thought there were some surprises in the Colorado results. She cited the gap in the results between Polis, who received 51.59 percent of the vote, compared with 44.96 percent for Republican Walker Stapleton, according to unofficial results from the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.
“Colorado might be turning more blue than purple with the results of this election,” Dias said.
The ballot issue proposing Amendment 73 asked voters to approve an increase in the state income tax for individuals who earn $150,000 or more to raise $1.6 billion for public schools. It also would have increased the state corporate income tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations doing business in Colorado and would have reduced the property tax assessment rates for residential and commercial property.
According to the legislative council’s fiscal projections, the measure would have resulted in a tax increase for residential property owners.
The measure failed, according to unofficial results from the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, with 55.48 of the vote against, and 44.52 percent for the amendment.
“The problem with Ballot Measure 73 was that it was way too complicated,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said. “By freezing the mill levy, 73 would have hurt the other entities that rely on funding from mill levies — cities, towns, local fire districts, etc.
“I’m glad the measure failed, not because I don’t think we need funding for schools, but because it failed to consider the Gallagher Amendment and would have been detrimental to many other entities.”
The Gallagher Amendment, passed in 1982, established a constant ratio between property tax revenues from residential and commercial properties. The amendment simplified a complex set of formulas that previously were used to determine the assessment rates on both types of property.
This ballot measure proposed amending the state constitution to require state and local governments to reimburse private property owners when laws or regulations result in lower property values.
Among the supporters of the issue was a registered issue committee called the State Ballot Issue Committee, whose registered agent was tax opponent and TABOR author Douglas Bruce.
The measure failed, with 53.61 percent of voters saying no and 46.39 percent voting yes.
“I know that Oregon passed a law similar to that and was losing money as a result,” McMahon said. “I think voters had concerns that it was going to create a back-end problem that many of us might not be aware of. It was seen as a way to provide extra protection for the oil and gas companies.”
Suthers did not comment on the issue.
Propositions 109 and 110
Voters rejected Proposition 109, known as “Fix Our Damn Roads,” with 61.29 percent against and 38.71 percent in favor.
The measure asked voters to require the state to raise $3.5 billion for specific road projects through bonds that would have been paid for with existing state funds.
Voters also rejected Proposition 110, which would have increased the state sales tax by 6 cents per $10 purchase, with the additional revenues going toward transportation projects; 59.7 percent said no to the measure and 40.3 percent approved it.
“The failures of propositions 109 and 110 sends a clear message that the people of the state of Colorado want the legislature to solve the problem of transportation funding,” Suthers added. “It should not be taken as an indication that people are unconcerned about this funding, but rather that they just don’t want to pay new taxes.
“I believe the legislature needs to take advantage of added revenue available to the state of Colorado to put together a comprehensive funding package,” Suthers said. “I look forward to working with the legislature on some ideas on how we can leverage increased federal funding created by the tax cuts to sustainably fund our state’s infrastructure needs.”
McMahon said she thought voters resisted the increase in taxes and that local voters thought the propositions would not guarantee that Colorado Springs’ roads would be fixed.
One of the most frequently raised issues in her classes concerned revenue from marijuana sales.
“I had a lot of questions about why marijuana is not funding our roads,” McMahon said. “When you actually trace the marijuana money, it seems it is not as big of a boon as we thought it was. … I wonder if that could have influenced the turnout as well.”
More coverage of the 2018 election results will be featured in the Nov. 16 edition of the Business Journal.