Voters preparing for long ballot
EDWARDS ” On Nov. 4, Coloradans have the opportunity to be policy makers.
The state puts its residents in position to make major decisions on social and financial issues, and this year voters will be faced with 10 ballot initiatives and four referendums. The topics range from defining the term “person,” to determining whether to adjust the way state severance taxes are spent.
Rich Jones, director of policy and research at The Bell Policy Center, has traveled the state explaining the sometimes detailed questions to voters. On Tuesday, he was in Edwards for an election forum hosted by the Vail Valley Chapter of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
The Bell Policy Center is a nonpartisan research group based in Denver.
Jones told a crowd of more than 60 people at the Singletree Community Center this year’s ballot requires them to do their homework ” which is exactly why Edwards resident Evie Rosen-Budd attended the event.
“Have you seen the thing?” Rosen-Budd said of the ballot.
The 14 questions on the 2008 ballot are the most since 1912, when residents were asked to decide on 32 different questions.
Jones said some of the initiatives, particularly those involving the state severance tax, have drawn more interest than others from voters across the state.
Amendment 52 asks whether voters want to allocate severance taxes ” a tax on the state’s non-renewable resources that are removed from the ground ” on highway projects, with a particular emphasis on relieving congestion on Interstate 70.
Right now, the revenue is allocated evenly between the Department of Local Affairs and the Department of Natural Resources. If passed, the amendment would shift a portion of the natural resources money to a fund for highway construction and maintenance. The change would provide an estimated $225 million for highway projects over the next four years, Jones said.
“Opponents say what you’re doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Jones said.
Those in favor of the amendment point to the need for highway maintenance across the state, Jones said.
Amendment 58 would divert severance tax funds into a college scholarship program for middle and low-income students.
The wild card facing this year’s ballot initiatives is what affect voter turnout will have, Jones said. The polls are expected to be busy this year because of interest in the presidential election, Jones said.
“I think that’s the $64,000 question,” he said. “Everyone that has a dog in the fight is trying to figure that out.”
Jody Camp, director of programs for the Women’s Foundation, said the group decided to host the forum after learning there were no other ballot training events in the area.
“We said we have to get someone to talk about this complicated ballot,” Camp said. “It’s been really well received.”
Rosen-Budd said she plants to vote early this year because of the length of the ballot. Her friend Joan Russell, who was visiting from Boulder, said she found the event informative.
“I thought (Jones) did a good job of presenting a nonpartisan view,” she said.
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or email@example.com.
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