7 citizen-led initiatives included on Colorado’s 2018 midterms ballot

Stuart Smith

Voters can expect several citizen-led initiatives on the upcoming Colorado 2018 midterm election ballots.

Seven citizen-initiated items will be on the ballot this year for Coloradans to vote on, including issues from fracking to highway restructure. 

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Ballots start mailing out to registered voters the week of Oct. 15 and can be deposited in the 24-hour drop boxes anytime up until 7 p.m. Nov. 6, according to Larimer County. 

Proposed amendments on the ballot will require 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Proposition 112 – Fracking

If approved, this proposition would require that new oil and natural gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures, water sources, and areas designated as vulnerable.

The measure would not apply to federal land, including national forests and parks.

Implementing this proposition would expand the current law, which only requires these projects to be at least 500 feet from an occupied building and 1000 feet from high-occupancy buildings, such as schools and neighborhoods with 22 buildings or more. 

Local governments will also be able to set their own distances longer than 2,500 feet, and if two jurisdictions with different restrictions share authority over an area, the larger buffer zone presides.

Those for the proposition, such as Colorado Rising, say that fracking can lead to risks to the health of the community. 

Those against the proposition argue it will reduce economic benefits of the oil and gas industry in the state and may result in a loss of jobs. Another argument says the existing setback requirements for these projects is sufficient because the Colorado Oil and Gass Conservation Commission used a collaborative rule-making process when establishing the boundary.

Amendment 73 – Funding for Public Schools

This amendment would increase funding for public education of schools serving preschool through 12th grade by raising taxes in tax brackets about $150,000 per year.

The amendment would also lower assessment rates for property taxes levied by school districts to “7 percent for residential properties and … 24 percent for most nonresidential properties,” according to the 2018 State Ballot Information Booklet. 

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Passing of the amendment would raise the required amount spent per student from $6,769 to $7,300 statewide, with most of that money coming from taxes on those with incomes above $200,000.

According to the Blue Book, those with incomes of less than $150,000 would pay no more in taxes due to this amendment. It is estimated that those with taxable income above $200,000 would pay $185 more and those with taxable income above $250,000 would pay $870 more. Coloradans with a taxable income above $400,000 would pay $3,925 more than they did previously, and those with a taxable income of one million or more would pay an extra $24,395 towards education. 

Amendment 74 – Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation

Amendment 74 would require the state or local government to compensate a property owner if a law or regulation reduces the fair market value of his or her property, according to the Blue Book.

Currently, state law requires any Colorado government to compensate a property owner for taking or damaging the property, with three circumstances for this compensation.

The first is eminent domain, where the government seizes property from a private owner for “public use or benefit.” The second way is if the government damages property, either intentionally or accidentally. The third is “regulatory taking,” when the government enacts a measure that deprives a property owner of the use or most of the value of his or her property.

Amendment 74 would expand the circumstances when the state or local government is required to provide compensation to a property owner for a regulatory taking. Instead of when the property loses most or all of its value, the government would instead be required to compensate for any loss of value to the property.

Amendment 75 – Campaign Contributions

This amendment would change the Colorado Constitution to increase campaign contribution limits when a candidate loans or contributes more than $1 million to his or her own campaign, allowing all candidates in that same election to collect five times the current level of individual contributions.

The argument for this amendment states that this would equalize the playing field in elections when one candidate has significantly more money than others, allowing him or her to spend much more money than anyone else due to more relaxed laws about spending one’s own money on a campaign.

The argument against the amendment, included in the Blue Book, says Colorado’s campaign finance system is already broken enough, and instead of fixing it, this measure would further complicate it without truly addressing financial disparities among candidates.

Proposition 109 – Authorize Bonds for Highway Projects

Proposition 109 would require the state government to borrow up to $3.5 billion in 2019 to fund up to 66 highway projects and identify a source to repay the borrowed amount without raising taxes or fees on the public. This would also limit the total repayment amount to no more than $5.2 billion over a 20-year period.

Arguments for this proposition such as that presented by “Fix Our Damn Roads” focus on the lack of highway capacity statewide that causes delays, increases business costs and reduces driver and passenger safety. 

Arguments against the proposition focus on the diversion of funds from other essential programs like education and healthcare without specifically creating a new source of revenue for the state. They also argue the measure would “pay for only a portion of the projects and fails to address the cost of ongoing maintenance of these projects.”

Proposition 110 – Authorize Sales Tax and Bonds for Transportation Projects

This proposition would increase Colorado’s sales and use tax rate from the current 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent for 20 years, distributing that new tax revenue for transportation projects. Of this revenue, 45 percent will go to the state, 40 percent to local governments and the last 15 percent being used for multimodal transportation projects.

“Let’s Go, Colorado,” a group in support of the proposition, argues the Colorado transportation funding system is broken and that the gas tax becomes less useful as fuel efficiency increases and electric vehicles become more prevalent.

Arguments against the proposition focus on the already-high sales tax rates in some areas of Colorado, which is above 10 percent in certain places. Also of concern is the dedication of funds to multimodal transportation when that money can instead be used on road repair and improvement, prioritizing the vast majority of Coloradans who use personal vehicles for their daily commutes and “depend on quality road and highway maintenance.”

Proposition 111 – Limitations on Payday Loans

Proposition 111 wants to limit the total cost of a payday loan to 36 percent annually and expand the definition of unfair or deceptive trade practices for payday lending.

The argument for the proposition focuses on the high annual percentage rate amounts for payday loans, which they say can exceed 180 percent. Supporters say these high-interest rates lead to consumers borrowing other money just to pay their payday loans, leading to a cycle of debt. Lowering the interest rate of these loans may allow consumers to pay their loans easier, avoiding further financial stress, according to the Blue Book. 

The argument against the proposition worries this could eliminate the payday lending business in Colorado, as payday loans provide options for consumers who may not qualify for other types of credit. It also argues the measure is unnecessary as the “state legislature passed reforms in 2010 that led to reduced loan costs and fewer defaults” while also ensuring access to short-term credit when needed.

Stuart Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @stuartsmithnews