In October 2023, Colorado voters are going to get a ballot information guide, nicknamed the Blue Book (it literally has a blue cover page) in the mail prior to the arrival of their actual ballots.
This year the Blue Book will cover the two statewide tax increases – Proposition II and HH.
Common questions during the election include who phrases the ballot questions and who writes the Blue Book. This is especially true when ballot questions are deceptively worded like Proposition HH, which paints pictures of pies in the sky without disclosing the real intent to screw you out of your Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds for at least the next 10 years, and likely forever.
The Blue Book is where you can make a difference. You get to participate and no expertise is needed. There’s a special reason that you’re especially needed this year.
Slick politicians wrote the Prop HH ballot language and rushed it through the state legislature without responsible notice to the public. A recent survey indicates 2/3 of voters will vote for Proposition HH if they read only the deceptive and misleading ballot question that state Representatives Chris deGruy Kennedy and Mike Weissman, and Senators Steve Fenberg and Chris Hansen cunningly wrote.
It’s up to us to ensure content in the ballot guide provides a full and clear picture to voters. Otherwise, the majority of the players at the table are the very politicians who hate spending limits and TABOR, like the sponsors of Prop HH (Senate Bill 23-303).
The legislative process includes three rounds of Blue Book drafts. Draft three was recently released and is available for public comment You can participate in this comment process by signing up for the legislative notice here. The deadline for comment is midnight on August 16.
The final step is a Blue Book public hearing on Thursday, August 31 at 9:00 AM before the Legislative Council in the Old State Library located on the 2nd floor of the Colorado State Capitol.
1. The Prop HH heading in draft #3 title currently reads: “Reduce Property Taxes and Retain State Revenue.”
Sounds lovely. Add that text to the slicked-up ballot question and it’s a perfect recipe for misleading voters.
It should read: “State Retention of Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) Refunds and Reduce Property Tax Assessments.”
2. The second bullet point of the draft says:
Allow the state to retain money that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers through at least 2032; with the money spent on education, reimbursements to local governments for some of their reduced property tax revenue, and rental assistance programs.
This bullet point should be the first listed and much clearer to voters that they’ll forfeit TABOR refunds. For example:
Allow the state to retain Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds that would be otherwise be returned to taxpayers through at least 2032.
3. The first bullet reads: Lower property taxes owed for homes and businesses for at least ten years, compared to what would be owed under current law.
That should read: “Minimally lower property assessments…”.
4. The third bullet reads: Authorize the state legislature to retain revenue after 2032 without further voter approval, if property tax decreases equivalent to those in the measure are maintained;
The word “revenue” should be replaced with “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds”
5. The fifth bullet point is woefully short on taxpayer notice, it says:
Creates a new limit on the growth of property tax revenue for some local governments.
The process is a sham but it should be noticed in this bullet point. All a local government has to do is publish a notice of a meeting, hear comments, and they can waive the property tax limit without getting voter consent.
The fifth bullet should read:
Creates an optional limit on the growth of property tax revenue for some local governments which can be waived through a local government public resolution or ordinance after hearing from interested parties. Home rule jurisdictions and school districts are exempt from the new property tax revenue limit.
You don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty unless you want to, but if you want to give it a try, go to the Blue Book Analysis page.
If you’re able, reserve August 31 on your calendar to show up at the capitol for the hearing. Let’s do our best to protect TABOR and not let them get away with manipulative ballot questions designed to take away our refunds and future consent.
If you have any questions or would like some assistance, please reach out by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie Menten is a longtime activist from Lakewood and a former elected board member to the Regional Transportation District.
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