OFF-SESSION HIGHLIGHTS, JULY 2016
Ballot Initiative Update
Nearly 160 initiatives have been filed on various issues this year. It is expected that fewer than ten will be able to gather the 98,000 valid signatures needed to actually make the ballot.
Up to now, just one has qualified and is potentially the most dangerous to business interests and to taxpayers: Amendment 69, a single-payer health care plan. The plan will be funded through the creation of a new 6.7% payroll tax on all employers and 3.3% payroll tax for employees. For the taxpayers in the state, that means an increase of some $25 billion dollars in tax revenue, which is double the amount the state’s current budget.
It is expected that a ballot initiative mandating a minimum-wage high will also be on the Colorado ballot come November. Proponents of Initiative 101 shared on Thursday that they expect to deliver 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on Monday, a whopping 102,000 signatures in excess of the amount needed. The initiative would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. The current state minimum wage is $8.31. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Bills to increase minimum wage have died in the legislature and the campaign will likely be opposed by the business community. This is an example of one of the issues Colorado businesses could spend up to ten million dollars to defeat this fall. Their hope is to maintain the status quo by beating back anti-business ballot initiatives.
Rather than continuing to be on the defensive on bad ballot initiatives, some groups like the Colorado Bankers Association (CBA) and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce (DMCC) are going on the offensive to fight for ballot reform, semi- open primaries and state fiscal reform. Through the Build a Better Colorado campaign, business entities in the state hope to see positive changes on a variety of issues which include:
- An initiated statute to permit unaffiliated voters to vote in either the GOP or Dem primary without affiliating with a party, and to reestablish an early Presidential primary. You can find more information at: www.letcovote2016.com
· A Constitutional amendment to:
- Force regional diversity for signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, requiring 2% of necessary signatures from each of the 35 state Senate seats for all initiatives, and;
- Require a 55% majority vote for adoption/repeal of Constitutional amendments. More details can be found here: www.raisethebarco.com
Those behind Build a Better Colorado had also hoped to work out a Constitutional amendment that would have done away with a nearly quarter-century-old formula in the state constitution which has repeatedly forced the state to rebate “excess revenue” while simultaneously underfunding education, transportation and other important services. That measure, however, did not receive enough support early enough to ensure its passage and was pulled early this week.
We are confident the open primary and Raise Bar are two issues that will be on the November ballot, although they have not yet met signature requirements.
Other potential initiatives related to transportation, tobacco tax increase, end- of-life options, firearm restrictions and a number of additional issues are in the process of completing the necessary steps to appear on the ballot in November. Proponents still have time to attain ballot placement. Measures can be certified for the ballot as late as mid-August, and ballots will be mailed around October 21. We expect that many of them will not be successful either in through signature gathering or through final passage, but it is too early to call on a lot of these issues, especially in a campaign season with significant voter volatility.
This volatility is especially seen in the Presidential election. Voters in the Denver metro area may vote for Donald Trump, but not because they like him. His unfavorability rating is a sky-high 69 percent, a full 13 percent higher than Hillary’s Clinton’s nearly 56 percent. National polls have shown the grave poor impression people have of the two frontrunners for their respective parties. Some are calling it the “Regret Election.” Voters may select the candidate they regret voting for the least and because of this, the viability of down ticket items is seriously in question. The latest USA Today/Suffolk University poll find that 61 percent of voters are “alarmed” by the election.
It will take a lot of work on behalf of campaigns, both for and against the various issues, to compel Coloradans to cast their votes, irrespective of their side or candidate.