TMJ Ballot Picks! Vote Yes on Local Propositions; No on State Tax Disaster Plans

Rick Langenberg

Election 2023 is about a lot more than just heated local school board races and contested city council seats.

With an off-year vote, we are once again confronting fiscal ballot hysteria, a time when local and state governments throw a few proposals at area voters. Colorado is well-known for its ballot propositions, which often take up the bulk of the space on election ballots that now rival War and Peace.

This year, we are spared the citizen initiatives, but must grapple with some serious proposals, authored by state and local officials.

Based on our (always expert) analysis, if it is a local plan, say yes, (as it is usually thought out well), but if it represents anything coming from our fine and always ambitious state government, say no. We hate to make judgements, but our state friends are just playing politics with their crazy state ballot plans, which might have the best of intentions, but are filled with unfunded mandates and a plethora of unanswered questions.

Here we go on the plus side:

*2A Cripple Creek Sales Tax Hike to Benefit the CC/V Vocational, Construction and Trade Center – Vote Yes. This one is a no- brainer and a bid that has received much support by CC/V officials and friends and proponents of the new vocational/trade center, which opened last summer. It is patterned somewhat after a similar tax, aimed at helping the Aspen Mine Center. So, in other words, it’s hard to argue with success, as that levy really worked well for the area.

The only downside is timing, as this is a period during which many property owners are eying their wallets, in anticipation of huge property tax hikes they may have to pay. But the fact that this represents a sales tax hike, and one that will be paid more by visitors, is a real plus. During the initial discussion, some on the Cripple Creek Council thought that an overall mill levy hike could be the way to go and would represent more of a fair distribution of the costs.

However, sales tax levies have appeared to be more of a winning formula in the gaming community. And in reality, the current sales tax rates in Cripple Creek are still pretty low, by comparison. The proposed revenue from the proposed one-cent sales tax also is quite reasonable, with an estimated flow of between $300,000 and $600,000. Unlike our state friends, the CC/V folks have taken a more moderate approach.

In conclusion, we just don’t see any downside to a needed revenue boost that will help make the new vocation career center a major success. It will help pave the way for more grants.

*7A Ute Pass Regional Health Service District Sales Tax – Vote Yes. Surprisingly, this proposed 1 percent proposed sales tax hike is similar in nature to the above-mentioned plan in Cripple Creek. Since this does not involve any property tax hikes, how can you say no?

It’s no secret that ambulance services are stretched thin with the explosion of calls, (nearly 20,000 in the past two years) including a bombardment of non-emergency requests. Although we struggled with the UPRHSD name change initially, the restructuring makes sense, along with common sense plans for an infusion of needed revenue, estimated at possibly an extra $2.2 million a year. With more and more older citizens, who rely on Medicare and Medicaid, the district definitely needs a helping hand, as it got hit hard earlier by the impacts on special districts due to Obama-care and then another double whammy with COVID.

Plus, we like the fact that UPRHSD has definitely taken the high road in the ongoing furor over property tax hikes, and offered to reduce their mill levy, under a plan heavily supported by the Teller County commissioners. This legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Mark Baisley, makes much better sense than the epic disaster unveiled by the state.

State Ballot Disasters

Now, for the not so good.

*Proposition HH Reduce Property Taxes and Retain State Revenue – Vote, HELL NO, and then No again, if that is possible.

It is very disappointing in the way this issue has been handled by state leaders, including our fine governor, Jared Polis. Can we ever get a governor who doesn’t hate Teller County? In the initial discussion, even when the issue was initially brought up in a Teller County commissioners meeting, there appeared much promise with this plan for a more permanent break from the huge property tax hikes facing many residents. It looked like this plan, combined with the package approved in the state legislature, permitting local entities to reduce mill levies on a temporary basis, would provide a good mix. But in reality, HH has become another state concept, with earlier good intentions that just got wacky. In fact, Prop HH has turned into a complicated disastrous epic, and taken a political turn for the worse. I almost wonder if Polis pulled this out of his sleeve as part of possibly a bid for the presidency. (Rumor has it Jared is on the short list if Joe Biden opts out of the race, or if Polis plans for a 2028 run. Or maybe certain state leaders wanted to compete with the sensible plan offered by Senator Baisley).

If the governor and his friends want to attack TABOR (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights) then develop a ballot plan to eliminate TABOR, instead of devising a sneaky around-the-end route. We are certainly not big fans of Doug Bruce, the author of TABOR, but TABOR has certain merits, including saving Teller County from going broke during an earlier plan for a Taj Mahal Justice Palace in Woodland Park in the early 1990s. (That’s a long story, but one that demonstrates how TABOR can save an area from spending money without the voters’ okay). One of the big losers with HH are local governments, which will face tougher consequences and will probably face tougher budget decisions. Times are tough enough for our local entities.

Plus, the timing of Proposition HH, thrown out at the tail end of the legislative session, just doesn’t smell right. In conclusion, there are just way too many question marks surrounding Proposition HH and just outright confusion dealing with the details.

*Proposition II Retain Nicotine Tax Revenue – Vote No. Why is this issue even on the ballot? This expands the government unnecessarily, and right now, we don’t need that at the state level.

There is not much to say on another Act of Nanny-ism by our state leaders. What is next? Funding for a program that cures people from swallowing the wrong way. A no verdict on this is not meant to promote tobacco use, but just questions continual government intervention and denial of taxpayer refunds. However, on this particular issue, good arguments have been proposed by both sides. We urge you to check out the blue book on this one.

These are just a few TMJ opinions along the local and state ballot front. More importantly, make sure you vote during the Nov. 7 election.