Ballot Cheat Sheet 2022
Mid-term mania got you down? The Tele's got you covered

Ballot Cheat Sheet 2022
Telegraph staff - 10/27/2022

If the daily text messages from “Jay with an update” about Democrats eating babies or the weird ads on sports radio saying everyone who doesn’t align with your political beliefs should go to jail weren’t enough to tip you off: it’s election season.

Scanning through the dizzying array of propositions, amendments, TABOR and state income tax adjustments, you – like us – may be asking yourself: Why is this happening to me?

Well, the answer is pretty clear: We live in a democracy, and every now and then, we have to give up a little bit of our time – one less TikTok, maybe 20 minutes off your mountain bike ride – to participate.

And, to be fair, this election could have some tantalizing ramifications. Legalizing psychedelic mushrooms? Tell us more. Alcohol home-delivery? I’m listening. Setting up a fund to help normal people with affordable housing? YUP.

But first, we do have to get through some tedious ones, including – and we’re not effin’ kidding – some stuff about the laws around bingo. But we’re strong; we can do this together. And remember to mail your ballots back at least a week before Election Day or, even easier, deposit it in one of the many drop boxes around town.

Amendment D: New 23rd Judicial District Judges

The 411: Asks voters to approve a new judicial district to serve Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. After reading about it, the measure seems mostly clerical but requires voter approval. We see no strong support or opposition and recommend voting yes. One down! Look how easy that was.

Amendment E: Tax Exemption for Gold Star spouses

The 411: For starters, “Gold Star Families” is a designation in Colorado for families who have had military members die in the line of duty or from injuries related to their service. If passed, this amendment would allow Gold Star spouses to claim a property tax break that exempts 50% of the first $200,000 of their home’s value. In Colorado, this would apply to about 490 Gold Star spouses. 

Notably, counties would not lose that revenue as the state reimburses for homestead tax exemptions. Ultimately, it would save Gold Star spouses $480 to $630 a year and increase the state budget by about $288,000. 

Those in favor say: Gold Star spouses may suffer financially after losing their husband or wife, and this is a way to further pay respect for their service. 

Those against it say: There’s really not much opposition here. The only criticism is that the amendment does not benefit Gold Star spouses who don’t own homes.

How we’re voting: Seems like an easy and uncontroversial choice. Yes.

Amendment F: Charitable Bingo and Raffle Rules

The 411: Please don’t hate us – we warned you there was one about bingo. Here we go: as it stands, nonprofits in Colorado can hold bingo and raffling events, but the nonprofits need to be 5 years old, and only unpaid volunteers can run the games. This amendment, if passed, would allow nonprofits just 3 years old to apply for a bingo-raffle license and allow charities to pay operators running the game (but does not require it).

Those in favor say: Colorado’s bingo-raffle regulations are wildly out-of-date, which has hampered an easy fundraising opportunity for nonprofits. Bingo-raffle events brought in $121 million to nonprofits in Colorado in 2021. And, by not allowing charities to pay game operators, they must rely on volunteers. Corky Kyle, of the Colorado Charitable Bingo Association (real thing!), says it has led to a “death spiral’’ of the game in the state.

Those against it say: The amendment would pressure nonprofits to pay game operators, meaning less money raised for their cause. Other critics say professionalizing bingo-raffle games could undercut the purpose of charitable fundraising.

How we’re voting: Yes. Big win for bingo; big win for us all.

Proposition FF: Universal Free School Meals

The 411: Proposition FF would create the “Healthy School Meals for All” program that offers free school lunches to students, regardless of their families’ economic status. Because of the pandemic, this program has essentially been in place the past few years but is set to expire in 2025. Previously, free lunches were limited to students who qualified based on their families’ income, about 40% – or 355,000 – of all Colorado K-12 students (though not all apply for the program).

The program would be funded by reducing the amount of state income tax deductions households that earn more than $300,000 can claim, which would impact the top 3% earners in Colorado. Anyone who earns under $300,000 would not be affected. In all, it would cost about $100 million a year to fund the program.

Those in favor say: Providing meals to children is a basic need that helps with their overall health and success in school. It would also help ease the rising cost of living in the state. Also, many families/kids are embarrassed about the supposed stigma of applying for free meals; this would level the playing field. And, some families are just above the qualifying income level for free lunches, yet still struggle to get by. (Oh, did we mention, the proposition would reimburse school districts that buy from local farmers and ranchers?)

Those against it say: Why should we spend money on students whose families don’t need financial assistance? And, with so many needs in education, is it wise to raise taxes to spend money on middle-to-upper income families, instead of paying teachers more? Of note: if passed, 615,000 students above the qualifying income level would be eligible for free meals, an increase of 125%.

How we’re voting: Sure, money could probably be better spent on raising teacher salaries rather than feeding kids whose families don’t need financial relief. But where’s that proposal in real life? In front of us is a measure to help all kids have access to free, healthier meals, at the expense of the top 3% of earners in Colorado. Tax the rich, feed the children, and vote yes.

Proposition GG: Adding Tax Info Tables to Petitions, Ballots

The 411: Oh god help us, TABOR! We promise, we’ll make this one quick! This proposition would require the state to more prominently display a detailed table/graph about how citizen-initiated ballot measures that change the income tax rate would affect Coloradans. Notably, this information is already included in the Blue Book.

Those in favor say: Putting information on how income tax adjustments affect Coloradans is a transparency issue that would show a fuller picture. Also, in the face of Republicans cutting income tax, the information shows how tax cuts deliver greater savings to the wealthiest at the expense of public services.

Those against it say: It’s unnecessary, given this exact information is already available in the Blue Book. Also, ballots are already long and complicated; why add to that? And, the additional paper will cost taxpayers more for printed ballots.

How we’re voting: This effort seems kinda silly, seeing as the information is already provided in the Blue Book, but hey, does everyone actually open the Blue Book? I mean, look at you – you’ve come here of all places for the low-down! We suppose nothing’s wrong with more transparency, so we’re voting yes.

Proposition 121: State Income Tax Rate Reduction

The 411: Speaking of state income tax reductions, here comes one now! Proposition 121 would reduce the state’s individual and corporate income tax rate from the current rate of 4.63% to 4.55%. In practice, that means about 65% of Colorado taxpayers would receive a tax cut of less than $63 a year. At the extremes: People making more than $1 million would save $6,647, and those making $14,999 or less would save $7. According to state records, about half the savings would go to people who make more than a million a year, who represent less than 1% of the population.

Lowering taxes, of course, comes at the expense of state funding. If passed, it’s estimated state tax revenue would decrease by $412.6 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year. Colorado voters approved an income tax reduction in 2020.

Those in favor say: Less taxes means more money in your pocket, and hey, living ain’t cheap in Colorado. FYI: the proposition is backed by a group that wants to eliminate the state income tax altogether, Path 2 Zero, something Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has supported, too.

Those against it say: When taxes are lowered, it comes at the expense of important public services, like education, health care, public safety, etc. And, this measure helps wealthy people more than normal Coloradans. They’d prefer a progressive tax policy code that taxes people based on how much they earn (instead of Colorado’s flat income tax rate).

How we’re voting: Another tough one. Yes, saving money at a time when the cost of living is insane sounds great. But, it seems like this is more of a benefit to the wealthy at the expense of services that benefit the working class. We’re voting no. (But hey, let’s see those opponents of this proposition actually work on a progressive tax policy overhaul, of which we’re all in favor.)

Proposition 122: Legalizing Psilocybin and Psilocin

The 411: Finally! Drugs! And after the last few ballot measures, we’re gonna need em’. Joking aside, if passed, Proposition 122 would legalize psychedelic mushrooms in Colorado for people 21 and over, who could then grow and share – but not sell – the mind-altering fungi. Also, the measure would allow state-licensed “healing centers” that would allow people to consume mushrooms in a controlled environment. No retail sales allowed, at all. In three years, the state would have the option to expand legalization to other hallucinogenic drugs: mescaline, DMT and ibogaine.

Those in favor say: Psilocybin and psilocin have shown promising results for people with depression, anxiety and PTSD as well as alcohol/nicotine addiction. And, passing the proposition would effectively decriminalize a drug that’s really not considered dangerous (it would still be illegal at the federal level). Just recently, Denver decriminalized mushrooms, and the world didn’t cave in.

Those against it say: Moms are leading the charge in this one through the group Blue Rising, which is concerned about children/teens having easy access to a psychedelic drug. Critics are concerned legalizing mushrooms will lead to a recreational-type industry, not unlike what happened with marijuana. And, if it’s all about mental health, opponents (some who are even pro-shrooms) say we should wait for science to dictate when and how we administer the drug.

How we’re voting: Yes. And, we get it: of course some people want this passed just to get high, and yeah, we hear the concern that it would be better to wait for more definitive science. But psilocybin and psilocin really seem to be a great alternative for some people seeking mental health treatments. And what really sells us here is the decriminalizing aspect – no way should possessing mushrooms be a crime.

Proposition 123: Fund for Affordable Housing

The 411: If passed, this measure would dedicate nearly $300 million a year to help local governments and nonprofits bring affordable/workforce housing to Colorado – all without raising taxes (though it might eat into those TABOR returns). Instead, it would set aside up to 0.1% of taxable income.

In practice, Proposition 123 would help develop affordable multifamily rental units, increase home ownership rates and provide down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. It would also help people experiencing homelessness with rental assistance and create eviction defense programs. The measure also requires local governments that participate to commit to increasing affordable housing by 3% each year and create a fast-track approval process for projects.

What exactly is affordable housing, you ask? Proposition 123 defines it as a rental or mortgage that does not exceed 30% of a household’s income.

Those in favor say: In a recent poll, 86% of Coloradans listed the cost of housing as an “extremely serious” problem. Locals are being pushed out, and the workforce is suffering. This measure would open up opportunities for teachers, nurses, firefighters, etc. to buy homes. Built in are measures to allow local governments flexibility to meet their community’s needs. And it provides renters a path to home ownership.

Those against it say: We should instead reduce government regulations that create barriers to new housing (not a bad point), like zoning and building codes. When the TABOR cap on growth and spending isn’t exceeded, this measure could stress the state budget.

How we’re voting: If we could get our hands on those elusive ballots sent to your dead great-grandfather, we’d vote yes every time. The housing crisis is perhaps the biggest issue in the state, and if passed, it would dedicate $300 million – six times what Colorado currently spends on housing – to the problem. And, available funding could increase in subsequent years as the economy grows.

Proposition 123: Increasing the number of liquor store locations

The 411: Right now, existing liquor stores can have only three locations in the state (which increases to four in 2027). This measure would increase the allowable amount over the next few years, eventually implementing no cap in 2037.

Those in favor say: It’s a free market. Of note: the biggest backer of this proposition is Total Wine & More, a national liquor store chain.

Those against it say: Smaller liquor store retailers will be pushed out of business by chains that have greater buying power and can sell products cheaper. Opponents say the current law was created to protect independent liquor stores, of which there are 1,600 in the state, from this exact threat.

How we’re voting: Nah. We like our local, independent liquor stores.

Proposition 125: Allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell wine

The 411: This measure would allow grocers and convenience stores to sell wine, sake, cider, mead and the like (not hard liquor). Reminder: In 2019, voters passed to allow these retailers to sell full-strength beer.

Those in favor say: It’s a matter of convenience; people should be allowed to pick up a bottle of wine while they shop for groceries. Fears are overblown: when full-strength beer was legalized, independent liquor stores didn’t close down. And, wine in grocery stores is already set to take place in 2027.

Those against it say: Small liquor stores – still feeling the pain of supermarkets allowed to sell full-strength beer – will lose business, especially given the fact that being exclusively allowed to sell wine has helped them stay afloat. The Colorado Licensed Beverage Association has said that up to half of the state’s liquor stores could go out of business if Prop 125 passes.

How we’re voting: While picking up a bottle of wine while you shop would provide short-term convenience, we don’t think it’s worth it at the expense of hurting our local liquor stores. Vote no.

Proposition 126: Third-party delivery of alcohol beverages

The 411: Remember during the pandemic when you could order Nayarit and also have a margarita delivered? Ah, that was nice. Not the pandemic, but the to-your-door marg service. Proposition 126 would keep that service legal by letting third-party companies, like DoorDash and UberEats, continue to deliver (the exemption otherwise would expire in 2025).

Those in favor say: Customers love the service, so why not? And, it keeps open an important revenue stream for restaurants.

Those against it say: Who is liable should something go awry: the restaurants or the delivery app? But, a provision in Proposition 126 says stores are not liable once alcohol leaves the premises.

How we’re voting: Yes. It’s already been legal the past 2½ years, and no major red flags have been raised. Plus, it’s legal in like 26 other states. 

Ballot issue #2A

The 411: This is the only Durango-specific measure on the ballot. Essentially, in April 2021, when voters decided to raise the lodgers tax, local officials underestimated the returns. A lodgers tax is a tax on visitors who stay in hotels, B&Bs, vacation rentals, etc. This majority of this money now goes to advocate for tourism. The city predicts it will have about $1.1 million in excess funds from both last year and this year. When revenues exceed estimates, that money is required to go back to Durango taxpayers – about $218 per utility account.

City councilors, however, decided to put a measure on the ballot to ask residents if they would prefer to see that money go to other uses, specifically:

• 66% for affordable/workforce housing programs.

• 20% for transportation, parking and transit services, as well as equipment and facilities.

• 14% for arts and cultural events, programs and facilities.

Those in favor say: Putting excess lodgers tax revenues toward important issues, namely affordable/workforce housing, is a better use of funds than giving relatively small returns to homeowners. What’s more important: a couple hundred bucks or a bigger impact for the greater good?

Those against it say: The cost of living has skyrocketed in Durango, and any bit helps. The original lodgers tax increase, when passed, called for excesses to be returned to residents, and now the city wants to change that.

How we’re voting: Ahhhh, can we just order a to-go margarita already? We grappled with this one. With how expensive this freaking town is, a couple hundred is nothing to balk at. However, the returns go only to homeowners (not that homeowners aren’t scraping by) who may be a little better off. And, above all, the fabric and function of this town is in peril, as we don’t have housing for our restaurant workers, nurses, teachers, you name it. This at least helps. Vote yes, put the pen down and go order a marg – or several.