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Health Care, Taxes & Definition Of Life On November Ballot | Print |  E-mail

Coloradans of all political stripe will have much to ponder on the rapidly approaching Nov. 2 ballot.

In addition to the high-profile contests for Governor and U.S. Senate, Coloradans will vote on all seven U.S. Congressional seats, all 65 seats in the Colorado House of Representatives, and about half of those in the state Senate. The posts of Secretary of State, C.U. Regent, State Board of Education, RTD Board of Directors (seven districts up for grabs) as well as supreme court, district and county justices will also call for your consideration.

On the issues side of this year’s ballot are seven proposed amendments to the state Constitution and a single proposal to alter a state statute. The eight items range from simple housekeeping measures like Amendment Q, which would establish a process for relocating the state seat of government in an emergency, and Amendment P, which amends the process by which the state licenses bingo and raffles, to hotly debated topics like Amendment 62, which establishes a new definition for the word “person.”

Also getting much attention are a trio of items that could drastically affect the ability of the state and other governmental institutions to fund critical projects.

Supporters of Amendments 60 and 61 and their companion, Proposition 101, say those measures are essential to halt out-of-control government spending and put our state on firm financial footing. Campaign spokesperson Natalie Menton has characterized them as “moderate, modest proposals for taxes and tax reform. They are phased in over many years, so it’s a gradual process.”

Governmental leaders from across the state couldn’t be more at odds, asserting their passage will make it impossible to fund critical services today and in the future. Coloradans for Responsible Reform is among those opposed to the proposed measures, describing them as “the evil three” ballot questions. Governor Ritter is equally concerned, saying Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 are “dangerous” and their passage “would set Colorado back a generation and bring to a halt the pro-business environment we have all worked so hard to build.” The Denver Post said, “These are not smart budget-cutting measures. They’re out to cripple Colorado, and should be rejected at the polls.”

Among the hotly debated elements of Amendment 60 are a provision calling for school districts to cut property tax rates – one of their main funding sources – by one half by 2020, and another that would repeal all votes passed since 1992 allowing school districts to retain and spend property tax revenues in excess of the limits stated in the TABOR amendment. This would place additional demands on the state to make up this lack of funding for education at a time when Colorado is already struggling with large budget deficits.

Amendment 61 calls for all local governments to go to a vote of the people before taking on new debt, and requires that debt to be repaid within 10 years, as opposed to longer terms common today. The state government would be expressly forbidden from taking on any debt of any sort, limiting its ability to fund projects to those that could be accomplished on a cash-on-hand basis.

The final piece of this package, Proposition 101, reduces Colorado’s income tax rate from 4.63 to 3.5 percent over time, eliminates most taxes on telephone service and radically reduces vehicle registration fees and taxes. The Bell Policy Center states that, “When fully implemented, the provisions of Proposition 101 would reduce state income tax revenues by $1.2 billion per year (current value), state and local revenues from a range of sales taxes and vehicle fees by well over $1.1 billion per year.”

Those hoping to make it more difficult for women to opt to abort a pregnancy have a new ballot initiative up for vote. Amendment 62 is the latest effort by anti-abortion groups to strengthen Colorado’s guiding document in their direction. Amendment 48, which would have defined personhood to “include any human being from the moment of fertilization was defeated 73 to 27 percent in November 2008.

If Amendment 62 passes, the Constitu-tion would define a human being as a person “from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Currently the Constitution does not state a clarifying definition of the word “person.”

Colorado Personhood director Gualberto Garcia Jones, a proponent of the initiative, said that the change in language would include human beings created through asexual reproduction in laboratories. “The term ‘fertilization’ would not have properly applied to asexually reproduced humans,” he stated, “but even asexually reproduced human beings have a definite biological beginning,” said Jones.

Another hotly contested ballot question attempts to undo elements of the recently passed federal health care  reform bill. Backed by the Golden-based Independence Institute, Amendment 63 prevents Coloradans from being forced “to participate in any public or private health insurance plan, health coverage plan, health benefit plan, or similar plan,” even “at the instance of the United States.”

Proponents salute the amendment for giving Coloradans the right to choose whether to purchase health care or not as they see fit. Opponents say it will reduce the risk pool from which Coloradans purchase insurance, and return power over health care decisions to insurance companies.

Finally, Amendment R aims to assist small business owners, cabin owners and special tenants who use a piece of land that is owned by the government. If passed, those individuals would be exempt from property taxes of less than $6,000 on that land. Ski resorts and other large users of such property would not be included under this amendment, as their “possessory interest” is far greater. This bill has been endorsed by numerous county governments as it frees them from the voluminous paperwork required to collect on very small amounts due from mainly rural clients.

The State of Colorado Legislative Council is charged at each election season with writing fair and neutral analyses of ballot issues printed in the recognizable Blue Book mailed to voters. That book should be headed your way in the coming weeks.

For more information, visit www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections.

Look for coverage of candidates vying for local, state and national positions in the October edition of the Washington Park Profile.
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