Voters in Colorado head to the polls on Tuesday for their last chance to decide on Propositions CC and DD.
If Proposition CC passes, it would be a significant win for Democrats in the state who say the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has impeded their ability to fund government functions in a rapidly growing state. Opponents of the measure view it as the latest assault on a critical barrier that protects taxpayers from higher taxes and bloated budgets.
Proposition DD largely has bipartisan support because it’s framed as addressing the state’s growing water issues without raising taxes that would hit every taxpayer’s pocket book.
Proposition CC, which was referred to the ballot by Democrats during the last legislative session, asks voters to allow state government to retain excess revenue and use it to fund K-12 education, higher education and transportation. Currently, TABOR requires that in years where excess revenue is collected, it must be refunded back to taxpayers.
One estimate from the state’s voting guide says passage of Proposition CC would mean state government could retain an additional $310 million in fiscal 2021 and $342 million in fiscal 2020, instead refunding it back to taxpayers.
Proposition DD asks voters to legalize sports betting in the state and implement a 10 percent tax on betting proceeds. A state analysis estimates that revenues from sports betting could eventually reach $29 million annually once the market matures.
Most of those revenues would go toward funding water infrastructure projects in the state.
While polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday, many Coloradans have already cast their votes with early turn-in ballots. More than 787,000 ballots had been turned in early as of Nov. 3, according to numbers from the Secretary of State’s office.
Of those ballots turned on early, 38.2 percent were from Republicans, 30.2 percent were from Democrats, and 30.6 percent were from undecided voters. The ballot returns in the 2015 election were 38.3 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic, and 27.6 percent unaffiliated.
“One interesting difference is that still, more Unaffiliated voters have returned their ballots than Democratic voters,” the polling firm Magellan Strategies said. “That is likely to change, because historically Republicans and Democrats vote in higher numbers the last two days.
“If Democratic turnout remains low, it would simply drive home the typical off-year trend of an older electorate that is dominated by those who vote very regularly in even-year elections. There is no evidence right now that this year will be any different,” the group added Monday.
Proposition CC in particular has brought in millions in contributions from both in-state and out-of-state supporters.
Yes on Prop CC, the committee supporting the ballot measure, has received $4.2 million in contributions and spent about $4 million as of the last contributions and expenditures report. That report details contributions up until Oct. 28. The committee’s most significant out-of-state contributors come from the New York-based Education Reform Now ($400,000), the North Carolina-based Strategic Victory Fund ($500,0000) and the North Fund ($517,000), based in Washington, D.C.
No on CC, which opposes the ballot measure, has received about $190,000 and has spent about $121,000 as of the last report filed with the secretary of state. Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Prosperity has separately contributed $1.4 million on things like TV and radio ads opposing Proposition CC.
The Bell Policy Center, which supports Proposition CC, argues that the measure isn’t a tax increase and would be a step in the right direction toward better funding government services
“Over the past three decades, spending hasn’t kept pace with population growth and necessary government services across the state,” reads a ballot guide from the group. “Colorado needs to make critical improvements in our education and transportation systems, and Proposition CC would help close some of these gaps. Without raising taxes, Proposition CC is the least we can do to keep Colorado competitive for years to come.”
For Douglas Bruce, known as “the father of TABOR,” the ballot measure is an assault on the constitutional amendment he authored and advocated for that passed in 1992.
“Proposition CC is very dangerous not only to the Colorado economy but dangerous to our right to vote,” Bruce told The Center Square.
Bruce, a taxpayer rights activist and former state lawmaker who was convicted of tax evasion in 2011, argues the ballot measure is a tax increase, saying “they want specifically $1.7 billion dollars – billion with a B, as in ‘bankruptcy’ – in just the first three years in terms of their excess taxation. … They should reduce taxes so that they don’t collect more money than they’re entitled to.”
Bruce also attributes Colorado’s economic prosperity to TABOR, citing a U.S. News & World Report ranking that lists the state as the country’s top economy.
“They’re demanding that we give them more of the prosperity and financial success Colorado has enjoyed since TABOR passed,” he said.
“Don’t mess with success,” Bruce added.