Hello again everyone. We really are getting down to the line here. I'm sure many of you have already voted using a number of early voting options, but since I'm a bit busy with other things, I haven't been able to finish up this series as quickly as I would like. Today, I'll look at the last four amendments on the Colorado ballot. We're skipping a few numbers because those measures have been withdrawn by their sponsers.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the allocation of revenues from the state severance tax imposed on minerals and mineral fuels other than oil shale that are extracted in the state, and, in connection therewith, for fiscal years commencing on or after July 1, 2008, requiring half of the revenues to be credited to the local government severance tax fund and the remaining revenues to be credited first to the severance tax trust fund until an annually calculated limit is reached and then to a new Colorado transportation trust fund, which may be used only to fund the construction, maintenance, and supervision of public highways in the state, giving first priority to reducing congestion on the Interstate 70 corridor?
Another taxation and budget issue wrapped up together in an amendment issue. The trouble with this one is typical of initiatives that are put on the ballot in Colorado. This is an amendment to the state constitution; its very difficult to change. My response here is fairly similar to several other initiatives such as this. A change in the severance tax policy would not be bad. As part of an overarching strategy, I think it would be wise to increase the tax on fossil fuel development and add further incentives to renewable energy research and implementation. I really dislike setting aside budgetary items in amendments. I-70 needs some work, but it really needs to be addressed in another way.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning restrictions on campaign contributions, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the holder of contracts totaling $100,000 or more, as indexed for inflation, awarded by state or local governments without competitive bidding ("sole source government contracts"), including certain collective bargaining agreements, from making a contribution for the benefit of a political party or candidate for elective office during the term of the contracts and for 2 years thereafter; disqualifying a person who makes a contribution in a ballot issue election from entering into a sole source government contract related to the ballot issue; and imposing liability and penalties on contract holders, certain of their owners, officers and directors, and government officials for violations of the amendment?
Alright, this amendment basically says that people with government contracts should not be allowed to donate that money to campaigns or use it for other political purposes. The blue book has probably pointed out the biggest problem with this issues: it prevents county or city level contractors from contributing money to candidates or causes outside of the limits of the person holding their contract.
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $321.4 MILLION ANNUALLY BY AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO REVISED STATUTES CONCERNING THE SEVERANCE TAX ON OIL AND GAS EXTRACTED IN THE STATE, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, FOR TAXABLE YEARS COMMENCING ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 2009, CHANGING THE TAX TO 5% OF TOTAL GROSS INCOME FROM THE SALE OF OIL AND GAS EXTRACTED IN THE STATE WHEN THE AMOUNT OF ANNUAL GROSS INCOME IS AT LEAST $300,000; ELIMINATING A CREDIT AGAINST THE SEVERANCE TAX FOR PROPERTY TAXES PAID BY OIL AND GAS PRODUCERS AND INTEREST OWNERS; REDUCING THE LEVEL OF PRODUCTION THAT QUALIFIES WELLS FOR AN EXEMPTION FROM THE TAX; EXEMPTING REVENUES FROM THE TAX AND RELATED INVESTMENT INCOME FROM STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING LIMITS; AND REQUIRING THE TAX REVENUES TO BE CREDITED AS FOLLOWS: (A) 22% TO THE SEVERANCE TAX TRUST FUND, (B) 22% TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SEVERANCE TAX FUND, AND (C) 56% TO A NEW SEVERANCE TAX STABILIZATION TRUST FUND, OF WHICH 60% IS USED TO FUND SCHOLARSHIPS FOR COLORADO RESIDENTS ATTENDING STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, 15% TO FUND THE PRESERVATION OF NATIVE WILDLIFE HABITAT, 10% TO FUND RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAMS, 10% TO FUND TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS IN COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES IMPACTED THE SEVERANCE OF OIL AND GAS, AND 5% TO FUND COMMUNITY DRINKING WATER AND WASTEWATER TREATMENT GRANTS?
This is again, a good place for the state to increase its revenue, but a bad way to target the spending of such.
SHALL THERE BE AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION CONCERNING THE MANNER IN WHICH THE STATE FUNDS PUBLIC EDUCATION FROM PRESCHOOL THROUGH THE TWELFTH GRADE, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, FOR THE 2010-11 STATE FISCAL YEAR AND EACH STATE FISCAL YEAR THEREAFTER, REQUIRING THAT ANY REVENUE THAT THE STATE WOULD OTHERWISE BE REQUIRED TO REFUND PURSUANT TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL LIMIT ON STATE FISCAL YEAR SPENDING BE TRANSFERRED INSTEAD TO THE STATE EDUCATION FUND; ELIMINATING THE REQUIREMENT THAT, FOR THE 2011-12 STATE FISCAL YEAR AND EACH STATE FISCAL YEAR THEREAFTER, THE STATEWIDE BASE PER PUPIL FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION FROM PRESCHOOL THROUGH THE TWELFTH GRADE AND THE TOTAL STATE FUNDING FOR ALL CATEGORICAL PROGRAMS INCREASE ANNUALLY BY AT LEAST THE RATE OF INFLATION; CREATING A SAVINGS ACCOUNT IN THE STATE EDUCATION FUND; REQUIRING THAT A PORTION OF THE STATE INCOME TAX REVENUE THAT IS DEPOSITED IN THE STATE EDUCATION FUND BE CREDITED TO THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES; REQUIRING EITHER A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE OF EACH HOUSE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OR, IN ANY STATE FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH COLORADO PERSONAL INCOME GROWS LESS THAN SIX PERCENT BETWEEN THE TWO PREVIOUS CALENDAR YEARS, A SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO USE THE MONEYS IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT; ESTABLISHING THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH MONEYS IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT MAY BE SPENT; ESTABLISHING A MAXIMUM AMOUNT THAT MAY BE IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT IN ANY STATE FISCAL YEAR; AND ALLOWING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO TRANSFER MONEYS FROM THE GENERAL FUND TO THE STATE EDUCATION FUND, SO LONG AS CERTAIN OBLIGATIONS FOR TRANSPORTATION FUNDING ARE MET?
This amendment is trying to fix some of the funding conflicts already in the state constitution by creating more of them. I think that summarizes my opinion on that pretty well.
As some of you may know, I still haven't received my official Colorado ballot, and so I will most likely not get to actually vote on these ballot issues. I have submitted a write-in ballot for the federal and state elections, so my voice will be heard in that way at least. I guess I'm also doing this blog, which may help to raise attention to some of these ballot issues. I'm at a conference on election day, so I won't be able to follow everything, but I will do my best to keep an eye on things.
If I have some more time, I'll cover the four referendums on the ballot as well.