We all face challenges in our lives when we could use extra support. When families have information and access to available local resources to meet basic needs, we strengthen the foundation for families and communities to thrive. As we cast our ballots – due in just 12 days – we all play a key role in shaping Colorado’s policies and public investments to build and maintain a strong foundation of community resources critical to ensure a strong economic recovery from this pandemic across Colorado.

Vote NO on Proposition 116, YES on Amendment B, and YES on Yes on Proposition EE with children and families in mind this election season.

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Illuminate Colorado urges a no vote on Proposition 116. If passed, the measure would reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for tax year 2020 and future years. This change would decrease Colorado’s state income tax permanently, resulting in as much as $236 million less in the state’s budget next fiscal year alone. Reducing state revenue will compound the impact of significant budget cuts already being made to education, transportation, health care programs, and other state services as a result of the current economic crisis.

Furthermore, the passage of Proposition 116 would have an inequitable impact with over half of the total resulting tax savings going to those with incomes over $500,000–less than 2% of taxpayers. Comparatively, average families would only see a benefit of $37 a year from Prop 116, resulting in slashes to many programs those same families benefit from or rely on, including K-12, higher education, health care, and more. White Coloradans are overrepresented in higher income quintiles while Black and Latinx Coloradans are overrepresented in the state’s lower income quintiles, meaning the vast majority of the tax cuts would flow to white residents and ultimately widen the racial wealth gap. 

As families, communities and organizations are struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic hardships, now is the time to invest in community resources, not diminish them. Learn more about the opposition campaign here.

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Voting yes on Amendment B is a tangible way to protect state funding as the global pandemic continues to negatively impact state budgets. The measure was referred to voters by a bipartisan majority of the state legislature. In Colorado, property taxes fund local government services, including those provided by cities, counties, and special districts, such as local fire protection, hospitals, transportation, and the local share of K-12 education, all of which are currently being constrained by the Gallagher Amendment. 

In 1982, the Gallagher Amendment established a formula that splits the total property tax burden between residential (homeowners) and non-residential (commercial) property. It outlines that no more than 45% of statewide property tax collections can come from residential property. As residential property values have risen over recent decades, the residential assessment rate has continued to decrease over the years–creating a widening imbalance and decline in revenue. This is problematic for schools, counties, and other special districts who rely on property taxes for funding. By repealing the Gallagher Amendment and freezing residential and nonresidential property assessment rates at their current levels, Colorado can protect funding for schools, hospitals, fire protection districts, libraries, and other critical community services, all of which contribute to the five Protective Factors for families. Learn more about the supporting campaign here

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Proposition EE will increase Protective Factors for Colorado families, particularly including social and emotional competence of children and concrete support, by shielding K-12 schools and housing programs from deep budget cuts caused by COVID-19 as well as expanding access to preschool. This measure would increase taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products as well as create a new tax on nicotine and vaping products in Colorado for the first time. These taxes would increase incrementally until they are fully phased in by 2027. The revenue raised will be aimed at improving child and family well-being by investing in programs that improve health and educational outcomes.

In 2021-2023, the funding will support Colorado’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on affordable housing, rental eviction assistance, and K-12 public schools with an emphasis on rural schools. In 2023-24 and after, the funding will be directed toward tobacco education, prevention, and cessation initiatives, and will ultimately create universal access to ten hours per week of voluntary preschool for all children the year prior to kindergarten entry, with the greatest resources invested in those who face the greatest barriers to school success. The Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, Colorado Medical Society, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and more endorse the measure.

All tax policy involves burdens and benefits which should be considered, balanced, and mitigated within the larger context at hand. It must be acknowledged that tobacco companies have disproportionately targeted low-income neighborhoods for decades and that flat taxes are regressive thus more burdensome on low-income populations. Considering that Black and Latinx Coloradans are overrepresented in the state’s lower income quintiles while White Coloradans are overrepresented in higher income quintiles, communities of color may be especially impacted by the increased taxes. Disproportionate burdens may be partially mitigated by saving lives and reducing health care costs considering tax increases have proven useful in decreasing consumption, with every 10% cigarette tax increase being correlated with a 3-5% decline in use. Proposition EE additionally will thoughtfully reinvest money into the most burdened communities through universal preschool (with extra offerings for working and low-income families), investment in K-12 education, affordable housing, and tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Learn more about the supporting campaign here

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To review proponent and opponent arguments for all of the measures on Colorado’s ballot this year, read the 2020 Ballot Information Book (Blue Book). 

As a reminder, in Colorado you can register to vote and vote in person up to 7pm on Election Day, November 3rd. In order to still receive a ballot in the mail, the deadline to register to vote or update your registration is October 26. Colorado voters can now sign up for BallotTrax – a system promoted by the Colorado Secretary of State that will allow you to track your ballot from sent to accepted. Sign up for BallotTrax here!

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