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Summary of What's on Your Ballot

Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.


When you think of elections what comes to mind? You might think of the Presidential race every four years, some might consider the Midterm races, which occur in the middle of a President's term. But elections happen every year, specifically every November. Now these races may not seem as important because the White House isn’t directly involved, but these races are often the most consequential in dealing with your local government. Including races such as the Mayor or City Council, and ballot measures. Ballot measures are proposed laws that apply to a state at large or to a specific city. Inclinations may drive the public’s interest toward the “big” Presidential race but what matters in your local community is just as important if not more than the national level. To help voters around Fort Collins better understand what's on the 2023 ballot we have assembled a summary and explanation of all the things that may be on your ballot.


On the statewide level there are two ballot measures that Colorado voters have to either vote yes/approve or vote no/against. Every household in Colorado with registered voters should receive a “Blue Book” which acts as an independent voter guide and summarizes the statewide ballot measures. You can also find the Blue Book here. In odd election years measures can only be on the ballot if they deal with financial matters, in this case both the measures have to do with taxes.


The first measure on the ballot is Proposition HH, HH has a lot of substance, it does a lot of different things and is considered to be quite complicated. So please take note that this is only a summary of a ballot measure which is very complex. To understand what HH does it is necessary to present some background information, the state of Colorado has the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” also known as “TABOR”. TABOR according to the Colorado General Assembly “limits the amount of revenue the state of Colorado can spend and retain”. This means that in order for the state or any city to raise taxes they must ask for the consent of the voters, and the state must specify how much revenue is expected to be raised, if more revenue is raised than anticipated the state must either reimburse the taxpayers or ask voters if Colorado can keep the extra funds. Now because TABOR limits Colorado’s spending it makes it likely that Colorado taxpayers are refunded every year, these are known as TABOR refunds. What HH would do is create a cap on the amount of TABOR refunds, this allows the state to keep more revenue that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers, note that this cap would be raised by 1% every year, therefore the tax returns could decrease more over time.

Chart from the Blue Book displaying how the HH Cap rises over time.

The extra revenue would be allocated through the following metrics: “up to 20 % to reimburse eligible local governments for lost property tax revenue, up to $20 million each year for rental assistance” and the rest would go to school districts and other educational-related programs. Currently, TABOR refunds are distributed based on income, the higher the income you make the more you receive in refunds, and vice versa. HH would make the returns equal, for example in 2023 the highest earning bracket got $1,984 while the lowest bracket got $628, if HH was in effect both brackets would have gotten $898. If HH is enacted it is estimated to reduce the amount of returns taxpayers would receive in 2024 and 2025 due to the new cap. As for the future, there has been great contention as to the fate of TABOR refunds. It’s unclear what exactly may happen as it depends on inflation and population changes among other things. The Blue Book has created three likely scenarios as to what may happen. The first scenario is that in the long run, TABOR refunds will decrease due to the cap, the 2nd scenario is that TABOR refunds may not happen in some years due to the cap, and the 3rd scenario is that no changes are likely to happen to the refunds.


In addition to what’s already been discussed, HH would provide property tax relief for homes and businesses, while also creating a limit on the growth of property tax in most municipalities. All changes related to TABOR and the property tax relief will only last for 10 years, however, the Colorado Legislature may extend them without additional voter approval.


The main arguments for Proposition HH revolve around the fact that HH provides property tax relief, gives more funding towards education, and that it benefits low and middle-income people the most.


The main arguments against Proposition HH revolve around the fact that tax returns are likely to be decreased if not eliminated, HH has been criticized for only decreasing property tax at the cost of refunds, HH may also create a burden on local governments through the property tax reduction.


In order to see the arguments of others' positions on HH look below:


Now the following are some people or organizations that support proposition HH:

  • Governor Jared Polis - "Because of the very strong economy and very strong TABOR surplus, we are able to do both, we are able to not jeopardize or cut funding for our schools and provide important property tax relief today."


  • Senate President Steve Fenberg - "That is the revenue that goes to support fire districts, to support libraries, to support schools. And that’s a core part of making sure that we do this responsibly, rather than just saying property taxes are too damn high, so let’s cut them and not think about the impact that has downstream to our local services."


  • The Bell Policy Center - "By gradually stepping down commercial assessment rates and using TABOR surplus dollars, we can fill the hole left behind when we reduce commercial property tax. There are definitely different ways to meet the moment we’re in. Proposition HH is one of a few different responsible solutions to a big challenge for our state. Unfortunately, superficially simple, yet dangerous, approaches are out there."


  • The Denver Post Editorial Board - "The trade-off made in Proposition HH — a small decrease in TABOR refunds for a larger break in property taxes — is not simple but it is essential. "


The following are some people or organizations that oppose proposition HH:


  • Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen - "Proposition HH [allows] the state government to keep more of your tax dollars year after year, eventually whittling away your Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) tax refunds until they’re potentially eliminated forever."


  • State Representative Mike Lynch - "We’ve seen this movie before, Governor Polis and his friends in the Democrat-controlled Legislature have looked to raid TABOR to solve economic problems they’ve usually created. In 2019, the governor and Democratic lawmakers ran Proposition CC that would have allowed the state to keep citizens’ TABOR refunds for schools, and it was rejected by seven percentage points. Hopefully, Coloradans will see through this new effort to extort their constitutionally guaranteed TABOR refunds."


  • The Common Sense Institute - "The bottom line is renters are the biggest losers of Proposition HH. So [renters] are paying for this, but they get no benefit. They will not receive a reduction in property taxes because they don't pay property taxes. We appreciate that some dollars are going toward rental assistance. But when you divide by the numbers of renters in the state, it’s not significant dollars."


  • Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board - "Total state property tax revenue paid next year under Proposition HH is forecast to be $15.3 billion even under HH, with its temporary decrease in the statewide property assessment rate. That’s $1.77 billion above what it would have been had property taxes grown at their historic annual rate of 5.9%. That works out to an additional $742 per Colorado household. The overall economic impact: a loss in personal income of $425 per household and of more than 14,000 jobs."

The next measure on the ballot is II, II would allow the state of Colorado to keep $23.65 million raised from taxes on cigarettes, tobacco, and nicotine. The revenue would be designated toward the Colorado preschool program. This measure is not asking to raise taxes, this money was already collected by the state, however, the state overestimated how much revenue would be raised, meaning that it's legally required to ask voters if they can keep and use the extra money. If the measure is rejected by voters then the $23.65 million would be refunded to the aforementioned industries and the tax rates for those products would be reduced by 11.53%.


The main arguments for Proposition II revolve around the fact that the revenue was already collected and it would go towards the preschool program.


The main arguments against Proposition II revolve around the fact that the preschool program already has funding and that these taxes largely hurt low-income people with addictions.


In order to see the arguments of others' positions on II look below:


The following are some people or organizations that support proposition II:


  • Preschool for All Coloradoans - "If Proposition ii doesn’t pass, Colorado will have to refund the $23.65 million inequitably, primarily to tobacco wholesalers and retailers. This will result in less money to spend on universal preschool."


The following are some people or organizations that oppose Proposition II:


  • The Centennial Institute - "Colorado has enough tax dollars. Any additional tax revenue collected should be returned back to the taxed individual or business."


Those are the only statewide ballot measures in Colorado. The city of Fort Collins has five measures which are summarized below or here:


Issue 1 asks Fort Collins voters to approve a sales tax increase of 0.5% from 2024 until 2050. If approved 50% of the raised revenue would go towards the maintenance of public facilities such as pools, and parks. 25% would go towards projects "advancing greenhouse gas and air pollution reduction". The remaining 25% will go towards Fort Collins's public transportation system. If Issue 1 is approved it is estimated to raise $23.8 million.


Issue 2 asks Fort Collins voters to approve a property tax increase in order to raise $16 million. The revenue would be used to acquire, construct, and otherwise attain affordable housing in the City.


Charter Amendment 1 would change the Fort Collins City charter language regarding disqualification from running for office to align with the Colorado Constitution. Currently, the charter bars anyone convicted of a felony from serving, this amendment would only bar those convicted of embezzlement, bribery, and perjury.


Charter Amendment 2 would clarify the language in the charter regarding the referendum and petition process. Currently, the language is quite convoluted and contradictory, the amendment would make the charter easier to understand and more organized.


Charter Amendment 3 would allow the City Council to make decisions about residency requirements for certain City jobs, this is currently a decision held exclusively by voters.



Fort Collins City Hall (The Rocky Mountain Collegian)

There is also the office of Mayor and three City Council districts that are up for election, in an interview conducted by the Coloradoan the candidates were asked why they are running, and these are their responses:


Sean McCoy running for District 2: "My guiding light is to keep Fort Collins as open and accessible and wonderful as it was nine years ago when my wife and I moved here. I'd like for others to hike and bike the same trails I have, drink the beers that I've drank, and to fall in love with this city and decide to call it home, just like I have."


Julie Pignataro running for District 2: "I am, first and foremost, a 30-year Fort Collins resident and CSU grad who stayed in Fort Collins to raise my family. I want to continue to lead with integrity for our community. Fort Collins should be a special place enjoyed by all our residents and to make that happen, the City Council needs forward-thinking officials who listen to what all community members have to say."


Melanie Potyondy running for District 4: "My background as a school-based mental health provider and working mom gives me unique insight into my southwest Fort Collins neighbors’ values and struggles, which will allow me to make smart, compassionate decisions on their behalf while on council."


Shirley Peel running for District 4: "In one word, service. Fort Collins has been a wonderful place to raise my family. Out of gratitude I ran for office the first time and I tell people serving our community as council member is the best job ever! I would like to continue serving the people of Fort Collins as a council member for District 4, not only because I love this role, but also because I have several initiatives I am working on specific to our district that I would like to continue into the next term."


Alexander Adams running for District 6: "I understand the importance of good governance. For all the beauty in the town where I grew up, Albuquerque is unfortunately marred with enduring racial and economic inequalities and perennial mismanagement...Ensuring people are safe and upwardly mobile in my community is why I am running."


Emily Francis running for District 6: "I was born and raised in Fort Collins and have dedicated my education and career to improving our city. With an ability to work with community members to identify issues and reach a consensus on effective solutions, I have the experience, passion, and dedication to serve. As your council member, I will continue to address the challenges our community is facing, connect and build consensus, and bridge the gap between the diverse populations who make up our city to ensure all are fairly represented in our local government."


Jeni Arndt running for Mayor: "I run to serve my community."


Patricia Babbitt running for Mayor (Write In Candidate): "We need more stakeholders’ voices in our community to be truly heard and considered when making decisions, including decisions for issues such as our Land Use Code and how it will impact our homes, our open spaces, and our limited resources."


To check out more about the candidates' ideas the Coloradoan has done interviews with all the candidates.


Don't forget to vote on November 7th everyone!


Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.


Brody is a senior at Poudre High School working at the Poudre Press for the first time. Some of Brody's interests include government, history, and world events. He runs a column called 2024 Today which delves into relevant news around the upcoming 2024 election. You can find his blog here.


Sources:

https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/images/blue_book_2023_-_english.pdf

https://www.fcgov.com/elections/on-the-ballot

https://ballotpedia.org/Colorado_2023_ballot_measures

https://leg.colorado.gov/agencies/legislative-council-staff/tabor

https://www.9news.com/article/news/local/next/next-with-kyle-clark/prop-hh-colorado-ballot-2023/73-70f53d4c-16a1-46e9-96ef-9ad0421c37a1

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/12/fort-collins-city-council-election-2023-qa-with-emily-francis/70912715007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/11/shirley-peel-running-for-re-election-to-fort-collins-city-council-district-4/70912842007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/11/fort-collins-city-council-election-2023-qa-with-melanie-potyondy/70920020007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/10/fort-collins-city-council-election-2023-qa-with-julie-pignataro/70922984007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/10/fort-collins-city-council-election-2023-qa-with-sean-mccoy/70912393007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/12/fort-collins-city-council-election-2023-qa-with-alexander-adams/70912176007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/08/fort-collins-mayor-election-2023-qa-with-patricia-babbitt/70922782007/

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2023/10/08/fort-collins-mayor-election-2023-qa-with-jeni-arndt/70912083007/








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