Amendment 78 & Climate Change: A Bad Combination

Climate change is causing devastating impacts across the globe, and those of us in Colorado are all too aware. Worsening climate change has affected our airour water, and our roads in very clear ways across our state. Whether it was smoke drifting across Front Range communities or mudslides caused by extreme storms — made worse by the barren soil where trees were burned up — closing major roadways on the Western Slope, the residents of Colorado are feeling the effects of worsening climate change. Of course, bearing the brunt of this trauma are the actual communities where the fires and floods are happening. Unfortunately, Amendment 78 on this year’s statewide ballot would hurt these communities even more.

Amendment 78 would take away state agencies’ ability to spend money coming from outside the state. Custodial funds — funds that are routed to the executive branch of the state — include federal funds, money from legal settlements, and disaster relief funds, to name a few. Instead of subject matter and budget experts determining how to direct funds to have the most impact, Amendment 78 would politicize the process and put it in the hands of the legislature, likely delaying funds and throwing more obstacles in the way.

That is where the consequences of climate change meet Amendment 78. The changing climate will increase natural disasters throughout the world, including here in Colorado. Large-scale wildfires, floods, and other events will become more common, and the price for cleaning up and restoring places hit by these natural disasters will rise. States will need monetary relief from other entities (like the federal government) to recover.

When natural disasters hit at a sufficient level, the federal government steps forward with a disaster declaration to unlock aid and relief for affected states and communities. Through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the federal government mobilizes help for individuals, businesses, and communities most affected by the disaster. Currently, this money is disbursed through state and local agencies closest to the communities to help repair and rebuild.

If Amendment 78 were to pass and become embedded in the Colorado Constitution, this process would get turned on its head. Instead of aid going straight to state and local agencies to help affected communities, it would have to go to the state legislature to be debated and discussed — a partisan and political process that would present more obstacles in the way of getting the money to the people and businesses that need it. With Colorado having a legislature that only runs from January to May in normal years, months could be added to the process of disbursing aid. With time being of the essence when it comes to getting disaster aid out the door, adding more time and chokepoints to this process could cost communities in time and dollars. 

Climate change will make natural disasters more common and more costly, and putting up roadblocks in getting relief dollars to those most in need is a solution in search of a problem. Local agencies and subject-matter experts are the most knowledgeable in how to distribute aid to their communities. Transparency in government spending is important, but we shouldn’t have to choose between transparency and flexibility. Amendment 78 says flexibility is less important than injecting politics into disaster relief. 

We cannot let communities affected by natural disasters wait for relief while politicians grandstand. Amendment 78 wants us to do exactly that. We must vote no on Amendment 78.

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