7 Things Colorado Voters Should Know This Year

This year, Colorado voters have some big decisions to make.

With Election Day on the horizon, we’ve broken down what you need to know as you fill out your 2018 ballot. Not sure what’s on the ballot? Check out the Bell’s 2018 Ballot Guide, a helpful cheat sheet for Colorado voters like you.

1. Everyone is a Lawmaker — Yes, Even YOU

Now you won’t get a title, an office, staff or pay, but you will get to do something even state lawmakers can’t do — amend Colorado’s Constitution.

Just like state lawmakers, you will need to do your homework, study the issues to see how they affect you and your community, and determine whether they’re good for Colorado. It’s a big job, but someone has to do it. This year, that someone is you… and all other Colorado voters in the state. That’s why you (and your neighbors) need to weigh in on every ballot measure this November — all 13 of them.

But don’t worry! To help you, we produced the nifty, easy-to-read 2018 Ballot Guide explaining each proposal alongside our research and the arguments for and against. It also offers our recommendations on how to vote on each one along with our reasoning. If you want more information, we have deeper analysis as well.

So, settle in, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to make laws! There’s no pressure — only the future of Colorado depends on your actions.

2. You Can Protect Democracy This November

Redistricting, the process that shapes Colorado’s congressional and state legislative districts, is integral to ensuring we have fair and accurate representation in our democratic institutions. It also can be a full-contact sport, known for being political, contentious, and confusing.

By voting on Amendments Y and Z, you get to help shape the rules of the game. The measures aim to make redistricting more impartial and equitable through a variety of changes. Y and Z create new redistricting commissions via the state constitution, require commission members be chosen in an impartial manner, and ensure unaffiliated voters — the biggest block of registered voters in the state — have a seat at the table.

The measures adopt elements from other states thought to have fairer redistricting processes. At a time when our democratic norms and institutions seem constantly under threat, we need to be constantly working to improve them. Colorado voters can do just that by supporting Amendments Y and Z, which offer a step in the right direction.

3. Taxes: What They’ll Cost & What You’ll Get

Two statewide ballot measures — Amendment 73 and Proposition 110 — would affect the taxes Colorado voters pay and the services we get from state and local governments. If both pass, families with Colorado’s average income of $74, 374 will not be affected by the proposed increase in income tax rates (you could even pay less in school taxes depending on where you live) and would pay an estimated $131 in state sales and use taxes. In return, you’ll see more money going to P-12 schools, repairs to state highways and local roads, and additional public transit services and bike paths.

  • Amendment 73 would increase the income tax rates for all corporations and the 8.2 percent of Coloradans earning over $150,000 in federal taxable income. For example, those making $200,000 annually are expected to pay $185 more per year in income taxes, while those bringing in $1 million every year would see income taxes go up by $24,395 per year. If you’re someone with the average state income of $74,373, you won’t see a change. Amendment 73 would also lower the assessment rates for school property taxes for nonresidential and residential properties. How this provision affects property taxes depends on where you live, but they could be lower. The additional revenue would be used to supplement existing school funding including increasing the amount school districts receive for each student by $531 per year to $7,300. Plus, kindergarten would be fully funded, and school districts would get more money to serve low-income students, gifted and talented students, English language learners, and preschoolers.
  • Proposition 110 would increase the state’s sales and use tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent for 20 years. The revenue raised from the increase would go to fund state (45 percent), local government (40 percent), and multimodal transportation (15 percent) projects. It’s expected to raise $767 million in 2019. Colorado families with the state average annual income of $74,374 are projected to pay $131 more per year in state sales taxes if this measure passes. Families with annual incomes of $24,000 are projected to pay $77 more in state sales taxes, while those with $190,232 annual incomes are projected to pay $250 more.

4. Someone Isn’t Playing By the Same Rules — You Can Stop Them

Fast Cash, ACE Cash Express, Speedy Cash: Just small businesses, helping Coloradans out, right?

Not so fast. Payday lenders in Colorado actually tend to be the spawn of nationwide, multimillion-dollar corporations and they siphon off $50 million from Coloradans every year because they don’t play by the same rules. How? By charging anywhere up to 215 percent APR on loans while other lenders across the state are capped at 36 percent.

While payday lenders are rampant across Colorado, they disproportionately prey on communities of color. In a system that already methodically marginalizes, payday lenders take advantage of everyone, but the burden is especially severe on black and Latinx Coloradans. Targeting people during their worst, unexpected moments — like a car accident or medical emergency — is already immoral, but it’s also downright racist.

This November, you have the chance to make payday lenders play fair. We urge Colorado voters to support Proposition 111 and stop these discriminatory practices.

5. Magic Math: You Can’t Get Something For Nothing 

The proponents of Proposition 109 have an enticing message: We can fix our roads and Colorado voters won’t have to pay a dime! Sounds great, right? As you can probably guess, however, that’s only half the story.

Yes, Proposition 109 prohibits tax increases to pay for the roads, but as we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. So how will we pay for the $3.5 billion in bonds through 2039 to fix our roads? We will have to take it directly from the state budget.

Related: “Fix Our Damn Roads” Will Crush Our Damn Budget

That means from 2019-2039, the legislature will have to find $260 million every year, in good times and bad, to pay back the bonds. If you’re thinking, “Colorado already underfunds our schools by $650 million, and the rate the state funds higher education has gone from 68 percent state in 2000 to 33 percent in 2016, Colorado doesn’t have the money in our budget to pay for all of that and bonds…” well, you would be correct.

This measure is meant to force Colorado to cut our budget so we can pay for roads at the expense of everything else that is crucial to the Colorado way of life. It’s bad transportation policy, as no money goes to cities and counties or public transit. Proposition 109 is dangerous policy for Colorado. It may not raise taxes, but it will certainly cost us.

6. Slavery is Still a Thing in Colorado — Seriously? 

Take a second to let that sink in.

If you didn’t know, there is a pesky little loophole in the Colorado Constitution that allows slavery and all its forms as punishment for a crime. Whether this clause is actually effective or not (you can find out in our 2018 Ballot Guide) doesn’t actually matter. What matters is there is a sentence technically codifying slavery in the Colorado Constitution. It needs to go and Colorado voters can make that happen.

Our constitution is a symbolic and literal document. It should embody our state’s commitment to equality and freedom for all. This provision allowing slavery is reminiscent of an unjust past we have left behind. Amendment A is on the ballot to get rid of this provision once and for all. Just vote yes.

7. The Kids Are Alright… But They Aren’t Kids; They Could Be Your Legislators

This fall, Amendment V is up on the Colorado ballot to lower the age of candidacy for General Assembly members from 25 to 21. The classic argument? 21 is too young to be a legislator. But last time we checked, a 21-year-old is as much of an adult as a 40-year-old. They can serve our country, drink, vote, and provide a diverse perspective that is sorely needed in Colorado. (No, they can’t rent a car without a crazy upcharge, but you get the point.)

For reference, in 2015, only 3 percent of legislators were millennials even though the age group makes up 32 percent of the state, while baby boomers comprised 61 percent of the legislature but 29 percent of Colorado’s whole population.

If Colorado is going to keep up with the rapidly shifting challenges and new opportunities for growth, then we need to include young people in that dynamic. Our representative democracy can’t truly be representative until we have people who can accurately embody the interests of younger Coloradans, whose issues are more and more relevant as our state evolves.

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