Colorado’s direct democracy is under attack; retaliate with the prop. 120

On November 2, Colorado voters will have an important decision to make that not only cuts property taxes, but also ends a stunning example of legislative arrogance. In its simplest form, Proposition 120 would reduce property tax assessment rates by 9% for both residential and non-residential properties.

Supporters argue that this reduction is overdue and necessary to deal with the surge in Colorado real estate values ​​in recent years. Their argument is that the sharp increase in Colorado property values ​​should not, therefore, mean unlimited increases in property taxes. Opponents argue that the government needs more revenue.

I vote “yes” on Proposition 120 because it is a responsible measure intended to deal with the skyrocketing cost of living in Colorado. I find it convincing that Colorado’s property tax revenues will in fact remain higher after this tax cut, as property values ​​have increased dramatically. What’s more, Colorado is currently overflowing with cash, increasing its budget by $ 4.4 billion this year alone, while receiving an additional $ 12 billion in federal stimulus funds.

More importantly, this tax cut is essential for many homeowners in our state who are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with Colorado’s rising cost of living and soaring property tax bills.

But while I support the Proposition 120 tax cut, there is a lot more at stake on election day with this one-ballot measure.

In the dying days of its 2021 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly took an unprecedented – and I believe unconstitutional – step to block the constitutional right of citizens to pass laws by initiative. A day after the ballot language for Proposition 120 was set (and could not be changed), several Colorado lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 293 which changed tax code definitions in order to ” prevent Proposition 120 from becoming law after it has been passed by the voters. The bill was adopted and promulgated.

Having served as Governor of Colorado, State Treasurer, and Member of the Legislature, this is the most disturbing attack I have ever seen on our citizens’ initiative process. It’s just a ‘let them eat cake’ moment, where elected officials have decided that the people of Colorado just can’t be trusted to pass laws, especially when it comes to cutting back taxes. taxes.

Fortunately, the Colorado Constitution is durable and designed to repel such attacks on direct democracy. Article V, Section 1 of the Colorado Constitution is clear: “the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments… independently of the general assembly…” but clearly unconstitutional. Even if SB 293 survives constitutional scrutiny, I believe Proposition 120 will still come into effect after it is passed by voters, because the Colorado Constitution explicitly provides that in the event of a conflict between two laws, the more recent law prevails.

The General Assembly’s attempt to usurp the citizens’ right to the initiative process should not get a pass from the citizens of Colorado. Supporters of SB 293 have made it clear that the very intention of this bill is to prevent the citizens of Colorado from exercising their constitutional right to decide a critical political issue through a ballot. The same newspaper indicated that the sponsors were “open that they sought to thwart the measure of the ballot”, with one sponsor saying that the legislature had a “moral responsibility to intervene”.

No matter how convinced the Colorado legislature was of Proposition 120, it should never have passed a law designed to infringe on the constitutional rights of the people at the initiative. If SB 293 were allowed to rise, it would serve as a precedent that whenever the Colorado legislature dislikes the potential results of a citizen voting measure, it could simply pass a law that prevents the people’s vote. to be implemented. This is in direct conflict with the plain language of our state constitution which grants citizens the right of independent initiative.

I will vote for Proposition 120 based on my belief that property taxes are too high in Colorado. Many of my friends and neighbors will come to a different conclusion and vote against Proposition 120. We will respect the rights of everyone to cast our own independent vote and we will accept the results. This is democracy.

But no matter how you vote on Proposition 120, I hope we can all agree that the Colorado General Assembly’s attempt to block the citizens’ initiative process is in fact an attack on our fundamental right to initiative. and should not be allowed. Colorado is better than this.

Bill Owens was Colorado’s 40th governor from 1999-2007 and state treasurer, state senator, and state representative.

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