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Mike Rosen: NO on Proposition CC, YES on Proposition DD

2019 Colorado ballots have already been mailed out to voters. This year there are no candidate races and only two state-wide propositions as compared to the raft of complicated ballot measures in 2018. Proposition CC and DD were referred to the voters by the state legislature rather than generated by citizens through petition campaigns. Here are my recommendations.

Proposition CC – Retaining State Government revenue. VOTE NO.

A “yes” vote would allow the state to retain any surplus of revenues in excess of spending not only in fiscal year 2018-2019 but in all years to come. A “no” vote requires the state to refund budget surpluses to taxpayers as now required under current law.

In the Colorado Constitution, The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits state government spending and taxation through a formula tied to population growth and inflation. Direct voter approval is required to change the limit. Article X, Section 20 (7) (d) reads: “If revenue from sources not excluded from fiscal year spending exceeds these limits in dollars for that fiscal year, the excess shall be refunded in the next fiscal year unless voters approve a revenue change as an offset.”

Through that last clause, Prop CC is asking voters to give up their prospective TABOR refunds permanently. It would spend those budget surpluses in equal shares on K-12 education, higher education and transportation without specifying how the money will be spent within those categories, leaving that to legislative whims now and in the future. Look at it this way: state government spending on K-12 in FY 2018-2019 exceeded $7 billion. Eliminating taxpayer refunds would direct an additional $103 million to K-12 education starting in FY 2020-2021. Seven billion is seven thousand million. One hundred million is a comparative drop in the bucket.

TABOR was passed as an amendment to the state constitution in 1992 by a direct vote of the people circumventing an impasse in the state legislature. It was generally favored by Republicans and opposed by Democrats. Although Republicans had a majority in both houses of the state legislature that year, opposition by Democrat Gov. Roy Romer, foreclosed legislative action.

To Democrats, Prop CC is just the first step in killing TABOR entirely which they plan to do with a ballot measure in 2020 if they can buy enough votes promising goodies at someone else’s expense. Democrats now control the legislature and the governor’s office. Without TABOR limitations on government spending and taxes, their radical, progressive agenda will cause spending and taxes to soar. As we’ve seen in other states, this will discourage businesses, drive out private investment, fleece taxpayers and undermine Colorado’s vibrant economy.

Proposition DD – Legalization and Taxation of Sports Betting to Fund Water Projects and Obligations. VOTE YES.

A “yes” vote would legalize sports betting in Colorado. A “no” vote would keep sports betting illegal in the state.

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited most states from authorizing sports betting. (Las Vegas was unaffected.) That ruling was a victory for states’ rights and the 10th Amendment. It opened the door for each state to decide the issue for itself, which is what Colorado will do in Prop DD.

Betting would be permitted on pro games, college games, international sports and the Olympics, but not on high school sports. Bettors must be at least 21 years old. Wagers could be placed through online or mobile sports betting platforms operated by casinos. Voters in places with legal casinos will decide in a separate ballot question whether to legalize in-person betting in those casinos. I suspect they will. Sports Books in casinos with multiple TVs showing the events are fun and good business.

Casinos will pay a ten percent state tax on net proceeds from sports betting which will raise an average of $16 million-a-year almost all of which, $14.9 million, will go to fund water projects and water-related obligations. As a strategy to sell the measure to swing voters, pro-DD ads emphasize the water-funding aspect. Sure, protecting Colorado’s water is a worthy cause but, let’s be serious, DD is really all about legalizing casino sports betting, which is also good idea.

Even if Prop DD fails, betting on sports will surely continue whether it’s in your office football pool, with your bookie, on Internet web sites, or between friends. Yes, some people will hurt themselves betting irresponsibly, just as some irresponsibly drive, drink or raise their kids. But we don’t ban those things. It’s a consequence of a free society.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com. 

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