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County and State ballots examined pt. 2

Statewide Ballot Issues 50-53

by Susan Simons

    You probably received your 2008 State Ballot Information Booklet or Blue Book last week in the mail.  Written by the Colorado Legislative Council, it helps voters understand the issues on the 2008 ballot.  Section one of the Blue Book describes each issue in plain language, gives arguments for and against, and estimates the financial cost.  Each week in October, the Journal will focus on four or five of these issues and try to determine their impact on Huerfano County. This week we’ll look at Amendments 50-53.

    If approved by voters,  Amendment 50  would change the state constitution to allow voters in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek to vote to extend gambling hours, raise the minimum bet allowed, and add roulette and craps to the types of games available.  This would increase state tax revenue.  The new revenue would be divided up this way:  78 percent to community colleges for financial aid and classroom instruction and 22 percent to the cities and counties affected (Gilpin and Teller).  If this amendment passes, there may be additional money for Lamar Community College, Otero Junior College, and Trinidad State Junior College.

    If approved, Amendment 51 would “increase state sales and use tax from 2.9–3.0 percent in 2009 and from 3.0-3.1 percent in 2010.  The additional money would pay for services to people with developmental disabilities.  About 12,000 persons now receive services, but at least that many are on waiting lists for services.  Mental retardation, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy are examples of developmental disabilities.  Prices for food, medicines, household electricity and gasoline would not be affected by this tax increase.  Prices would be affected for such items as telephone and cell phone service, food at restaurants, lodging and so on.  This tax increase would be combined with local sales and use tax rates, so there would be an increase at the local level.

    If approved, Amendment 52 would  amend the constitution and require the state to spend most of future increases in severance taxes to construct and maintain highways, with priority given to Interstate-70.  Companies that extract such resources as coal, oil, natural gas, gold and silver pay the state severance tax.  Right now, the state splits the money with the local communities affected by extraction and spends the state portion on local water supply projects, low-income energy assistance and wildlife conservation.   These programs would see a decrease in funding. 

    Amendment 52 and Amendment 58 seem to conflict with one another in some areas.  Amendment 58 seeks to increase state severance taxes and has a different formula than 52 for distributing the tax benefits.  Also, Amendment 52 changes the state constitution while Amendment 58 changes state statute.  As voters from Huerfano County, we should decide which would bring the most revenue to the county.

    Amendment 53 would apply criminal penalties to any business executive who knew of a duty required by law and did not perform that duty.  This amendment will appear on the ballot, but votes will not be counted.  It has been dropped because business and labor agreed it might drive businesses out of the state.

            continued next week