Voters have a choice of methods to fund the needed improvements for Colorado’s highways, with a choice of results: Use a large amount of existing general fund revenues, which may be needed for other uses, and provide for $3.5 billion in construction bonding. Or raise the state’s sales tax by 0.62 percent for 20 years to do $6 billion or double the work and make really meaningful improvements.
We like the latter. With a state gasoline tax that hasn’t budged since 1992, highway needs have grown in recent years to the point that an estimated $9 billion in significant work needs to be done.
“Let’s Go Colorado” has the answer: the citizen-initiated Proposition 110 on the November ballot.
Proposition 110, which adds to the sales tax, offers an appealing mix of support. It provides a greater percentage of money to counties and municipalities when multimodal transportation is included than to state highways (55 percent vs. 45 percent). Local governments have road construction needs, too, and know their multimodal desires.
It makes no sense to provide major highways without making it possible for drivers to reach them efficiently and safely.
For those who want to ride a bike rather than drive short distances, at least occasionally, 110 contains provisions for bike lanes and paths. That is the present and the future.
A 0.62 percent increase in the sales tax is 62 cents on a $100 purchase, and with that, up to $6 billion in bonding would be possible. First-year revenues are expected to be about $767 million, with the additional sales tax ending in 2039.
“Fix our damn roads,” the citizen-initiated Proposition 109, would take about $350 million from the general fund annually for 20 years to support $3.5 billion in bonding to address portions of the most congested highways.
State tax revenues are healthy this year, and will likely be next year, and $350 million could be available, but there is no guarantee that will continue. Economies run in cycles. And, with public school funding and Medicaid, the state should not be in the position of having to decide between those two critical categories and many other smaller programs supported by the general fund to meet a bond payment for highways.
Much better to have a designated sales tax to support roads.
Work on those roads has been overdue. A dedicated sales tax increase would go a long way toward meeting the state’s infrastructure needs.
We vote YES on Proposition 110 and NO on Proposition 109 for the significant road improvements all of Colorado requires.
Property reimbursementThere are plenty of good reasons to turn away Amendment 74 to the Colorado Constitution, which is on this November’s ballot.
Created to require state and local governments to reimburse mineral owners for the gas and oil royalties that they would not receive if drilling was prohibited, the addition to the state constitution would also freeze most government decisions about the use of private property.
Want to build to a height of 10 stories on a small city street, and the city government says no? Send the city a bill. Argue that only one lane in and out of your subdivision is adequate so that you can save in construction costs, and the county says no? Send it a bill. Those are not conditions that are in Coloradans’ best interest.
To meet the initial purpose of the ballot question would be impossible, and would halt drilling. Energy companies are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties across the state, amounts that governments would have no way of coming up with to compensate mineral rights holders. That alone is a reason we vote NO on 74.
Because this ballot language can be applied to other property issues when governments say no just makes it a hundred times more harmful.
Payday lendingWhen borrowing several hundred dollars in a few minutes with little or no credit check is possible, there is probably a reason to be wary.
While the basic interest rate might be close to what a credit card company charges (in Colorado up to 20 percent for the first $300), look out for the add-ons. In Colorado, payday lenders have multiple ways to make money from a relatively small debt. They can add 7.5 percent to the amount above $300 (still not unreasonable), but then can charge a monthly maintenance fee of $30 and as much as 45 percent in an annual finance fee.
As a result, for smaller amounts, repayment could double the amount borrowed.
Eleven states either cap the annual cost of a payday loan at 36 percent or do not allow the loans at all. A YES vote on question 111 on this November’s ballot will set the interest rate cap at 36 percent in Colorado. The fees will no longer be allowed.
Payday lenders, often large regional or national companies, argue that high default rates require the option to set high charges on all loans. That penalizes every small borrower.
Better in our estimation is for the companies to require more in the way of credit evaluations, refusing loans to some rather than to add exorbitant amounts to many or most of their borrowers.
In 2010, the Colorado Legislature partially clamped down on small-amount, short-term lenders by requiring that loans be written for at least six months rather than two months.
That was a step in the right direction. But we’re adding a needed YES vote on the citizen-initiated statutory change, Proposition 111.
Campaign reformBallot initiative 173, referred by petition, is styled as “Campaign finance reform for the purpose of protecting elections from the undue influence of millionaires.” So far so good.
Editorial text: This might have been called the Rep. Jared Polis question. Polis is the self-financing, multimillionaire Democrat who is running for governor against Walker Stapleton, the Republican state treasurer. Campaign contributions in their race have already passed $21 million. Of that, $18.3 million was given by Polis to himself.
Initiative 173 asks, “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution providing that if any candidate in a primary or general election for state office directs more than one million dollars in support of his or her own election, then every candidate for that office in the same election may accept five times the amount of campaign contributions normally allowed?”
The fly in the ointment here is that in order to counter the influence of big money and wealthy politicians, a yes vote would likely mean even more money would get pumped into some races – and that is just too big a loss, to our way of thinking, to offset the possible gain.
What Colorado ought to do – what its future governors and Legislatures ought to do – is fight to limit the contributions that candidates may receive from anyone, including themselves – and take that fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if they must.
In the meantime, we are voting NO on Initiative 173.
Oil and gas setbacksInitiative 97, referred by petition, asks, “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from any occupied structure and any area designated for additional protection and authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?”
That is increasing by a factor of five the current state setback of 500 feet from buildings and 350 feet from recreation areas.
In effect, it would ban new drilling on 85 percent of Colorado’s non-federal land.
We simply do not see the need for a top-down approach to what is a real problem for some people in Colorado, in at least some places – a problem that will only grow as more people come to the state and oil and gas production increases.
We say, look southwest, where we have acted locally to effect the best compromise between the welfare of our citizens and our need for gas extraction along with other sources of revenue in order to provide essential services for them.
In the governor’s race, both Stapleton, the industry-friendly conservative, and Polis, the green liberal, think 2,500 feet is too far. If it’s outside the gulf between these two candidates, it is certainly too far for us.
We are a NO vote on Initiative 97.