How you vote affects our region’s business climate and the success and prosperity of Coloradans. This year, we’ve identified three critical statewide issues and three local issues that businesses should pay close attention to. Here are three ways you can learn more about the ballot measures and how they could impact your organization:
Each proposal related to our legislative agenda has been carefully studied by Chamber & EDC staff and our Government Affairs Council after hearing from advocates on both sides of the issues.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Colorado’s elections are conducted by mail and your ballot must be returned by 7 p.m. on election day – postmarks don’t count. Find a 24-hour secure drop-off box near you here. Learn more about election security here.
You can register to vote through election day. Check or update your registration and ballot status at www.govotecolorado.com. To get a replacement ballot, call (719) 575-VOTE, email, [email protected], or visit a Voter Service Center.
This year’s ballot is an extremely crowded one. Because you’ll receive your ballot two to three weeks before it is due, you can take your time making your decisions. See a sample ballot.
Last year, the legislature voted on party lines to commit Colorado to the National Popular Vote Compact. Due to a public outcry, voters have the final say.
The Compact says each state promises to give its Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote for president, no matter who won in the state.
Our government is based on bringing together various methods of making decisions and ensuring fairness and balance. In Congress, each person is represented in a geographic manner (the Senate granting equal representation to urban and rural residents, large and small states) and by population (the House of Representatives.) The Electoral College is based on this system and combines the two types of representation: the Constitution gives each state one electoral vote for each of its U.S. representatives and senators. Just as Congress balances various interests, the Electoral College is a sort of average.
The Electoral College ensures that less populous states still have influence over who becomes president. Joining the Compact will mean candidates will bypass Colorado when campaigning and ignore the state’s issues and concerns, diminishing our influence on important federal policy debates and our ability to secure our fair share of federal funding. The compact is being funded by out-of-state interests, particularly a handful of California billionaires, for a simple reason: it benefits large urban centers in California and New York.
Prop 113 would repeal the State Senate bill committing Colorado’s electoral college votes to the National Popular Vote Compact. A “yes” vote confirms the General Assembly’s action; a “no” vote repeals the law.
Learn more here.
Prop 118 would create the most expansive, expensive paid leave program in the country, funded by a payroll tax that every employer and worker in Colorado would be required to pay. The initial payroll tax can be increased at will by the head of the new state department.
While many of our businesses already offer options to help employees take time off to provide medical care to their families, this poorly-designed program is far more about government bureaucracy than it is about families, creating a new $1.3 billion state department that will employ about 200 new workers to administer the program, a lavish new program destined for bankruptcy. Programs in other states offer much more modest benefits and are housed in existing state departments, making them much more affordable and manageable.
The University of Denver, the non-partisan Common Sense Institute, and the State Legislature’s research service have all released studies that show the program will be insolvent in a few years with just moderate usage rates. The CSI study also noted that the program would disproportionately harm small businesses and those with small profit margins, such as restaurants and independent retailers, and that the program would result in layoffs or cuts to wages or other benefits.
Prop 118 will burden Colorado workers and businesses with a huge cost at a time when they are trying to survive a global pandemic. Last year, we calculated that this would cost El Paso County employers alone $35 million. The cost to workers would be similar.
Learn more here.
Gallagher, adopted by voters in 1982, requires 45% of the state’s property tax to be levied on homes, and 55% on commercial properties. But with rising home values over the years, the state has had to ratchet down the residential assessment rate to maintain that ratio, which means that businesses now pay four times more property tax than residents do – and that will increase to five times if the rates aren’t frozen. When Gallagher passed, the business rate was 29% and the residential rate was 21%. Residents now pay just 7.15%, and the rate will drop to less than 6% if Amendment B fails.
In addition to the disproportionate impact on businesses, Gallagher has resulted in fewer dollars for K-12 education and other property tax-funded services, such as fire, police, water, and hospitals. It has hurt rural communities that rely more on residential property taxes for schools and forced the state into a situation where it now pays 65% of the cost of public education, with local property taxes covering the rest. When Gallagher was adopted, that ratio was the opposite.
Amendment B repeals the Gallagher Amendment and freezes current property tax assessment rates, ensuring that the businesses’ property tax bills don’t continue to rise. This is especially important as businesses work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Residential rates would also be frozen and cannot increase without a vote of the people.
Learn more here.
Under Colorado law, government revenue can only increase by a set amount each year. In an economic downturn such as the one induced by the coronavirus pandemic, the revenue cap is reset to the lower collection number, slowing economic recovery when the economy rebounds and revenue collection returns to normal levels.
In 2019, a thriving economy meant that the City of Colorado Springs collected more taxes than it can keep, and because of the coronavirus pandemic, revenue in 2020 is much lower than projected.
2A would allow the City to keep the extra tax money collected in 2019 (about $7 per person) and reset future revenue caps to 2019 levels, cutting the City’s fiscal recovery time in half.
Learn more here.
A note about the City of Colorado Springs parkland ballot measures
Colorado Springs sometimes swaps parcels of public parkland for other privately-owned properties. These complex deals are reviewed by the Parks Advisory Board and ultimately decided by City Council. Following a 2016 deal to trade the city’s Strawberry Fields open space to the Broadmoor for other properties, a group of citizens who objected to the trade advocated for additional steps.
Colorado Springs voters will decide between two competing questions on the ballot aimed at protecting city parkland. Whichever receives more votes will be adopted.
2B would require parkland deals to go to a vote of the people. While proponents have advocated for this as a way to ensure citizens have a say, this could potentially require a special election to be held, holding up potentially time-sensitive negotiations, and costing taxpayers the $350,000 required to fund a special election.
2C requires a super-majority of City Council members to vote in favor of any proposed parkland deal, providing more protection for parks, as citizens requested while maintaining City Council’s flexibility to act on land deals quickly. This is not the preferred option of the citizen group that is most active on this issue, but the GAC felt this was a better governance model and balanced accountability with speed and Council’s ability to govern. 2C is also supported by the Trails and Open Space Coalition.