Our View: Ballot issues no easy matter
October 29, 2008
After a week of deliberation, the Daily Press Editorial Board went over the ballot issues one by one. First we decided which ballot issues we would form opinions on.
This board will not be addressing the following issues: Amendment 49, Amendment 54 and referendums L, M and N.
The last board previously endorsed Amendment 47, which still stands.
Beyond that, today, we will give our opinion on Referendum O and amendments 51, 52 and 58. On Saturday, we will print our opinion on amendments 46, 48, 50 and 59.
Although we recognize many people already have voted, we want to emphasize that our opinion as a board is just that – an opinion. We six members have studied the materials available to us on each issue, discussed them and taken a vote to form that opinion. On one of the amendments, 51, we deadlocked at 3-3, so our recommendation reflects that.
Referendum O – Yes
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The Craig Daily Press Editorial Board recommends a “yes” vote on Referendum O.
This ballot issue would change the way amendments and statutes are petitioned onto the ballot. We like this because it strengthens the signature requirement for constitutional amendments, while weakening the signature requirement for statutory changes. The issue does require a two-thirds majority vote for the Legislature to change citizen-initiated statutory changes.
We are hopeful that this change will lead to more statutory ballot issues, rather than amendments.
It also adds a requirement that all signatures for all ballot issues be gathered from each of the seven congressional districts. If signatures must be gathered in the separate districts, the overall approval for the issue’s inclusion on the ballot will be more representative of Colorado.
One of the things people need to keep in mind when considering this referendum, though, is that our Constitution is bloated and stuffed with conflicting and constraining rules that hurt the operation of our government. A major change is needed in the future for that broken document.
Referendum O is not an overall fix, but it is a step in the right direction. That’s why we say “yes.”
Amendment 51 – Split Evenly
The Craig Daily Press Editorial Board may as well have been a hung jury on Amendment 51.
This ballot issue would increase the state’s sales tax rate 1/10 of 1 percent – 1 cent on a $10 purchase – for two years, with the money going services for “persons with developmental disabilities.” The new funds would be exempt from TABOR-mandated state spending limits.
While we all agree these services need funding, we could not agree this was the right or wrong way to do it. Half the board thought it should be a priority in the Legislature, half thought it would never happen in the Legislature and a different source needed to be established.
Half of us thought a 1-penny-on-$10 increase was a pittance. The other half was worried about how many tiny increases add up to a big increase overall.
On this one, we make no recommendation either way, except for you to call it as you see it.
Amendment 52 – No
The Craig Daily Press Editorial Board recommends a “no” vote on Amendment 52.
This amendment would change the constitution to re-allocate revenue from severance taxes. Instead of the current formula, money would be put into different areas, including a state transportation fund, with priority given expressly to the Interstate 70 corridor.
As a board, we agree that Colorado highways and roads need more funding. But also, as a board, we agree that this is the wrong way to do that.
Under this amendment, the vast majority of the state would see no benefit in improved highways, and areas that currently benefit from severance tax revenue under the current formula could see their funding disappear.
We need to take spending priorities out of the constitution, not add new ones. Our vote is no.
The Craig Daily Press Editorial Board recommends a “no” vote on Amendment 58.
This amendment would change a statutory law such that companies that pay severance taxes no longer would be able to deduct property taxes from their severance tax bill. It also changes the formula for where the severance taxes are allocated, and new revenue created by the removal of the property tax credit would be exempt from TABOR limits and go into a new fund for college scholarships.
What we see wrong with the amendment is not necessarily removing the property tax credit – many on the board liked this part of this ballot issue. Colorado has the lowest severance tax rate of any state, and there may be room for this to be increased. However, higher severance taxes could have a direct negative impact on our local economy in Moffat County if energy companies choose to operate here.
But our biggest problem with 58 lies in what else is in the ballot issue.
Changing the formula allocating severance tax money will have unknown impacts on current departments, agencies and projects.
And even if this is a statutory change, we do not like that there are specific funding priorities set into this amendment.
One thing we do want to bring to the forefront of discussion on 58, though, is that energy is sold in a national market. If this issue passes, Colorado residents will not see higher energy bills unless prices increase in the national market. The ads on TV suggesting otherwise are nothing more than a scare tactic.
That does not mean we’re endorsing the amendment, though. If you are voting against this, do not let that be the sole reason.
We do recommend a “no” vote.