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Ferry: Sorting through state ballot questions

Kaye Ferry
Valley Voices

The ballots are out, and there is some confusion about the three statewide questions — so let’s take a look.

Kaye Ferry

Amendment 78 is titled Legislative Authority for Spending State Money. In legal lingo, it means that individual elected officials and state agencies are prohibited from spending “custodial money.”

What does that mean? I think the best way to explain it is to use an example of “custodial money” and go from there.



Custodial money is generated to the state from miscellaneous sources other than the state of Colorado and provided for a particular service. For example, the state received $1.67 billion from the federal government for pandemic relief. Instead of the Legislature, which includes 35 senators and 65 representatives, making the decision as to where best to spend that money, currently the governor made those decisions by executive order.

The feds also allocate other funds, such as money for transportation, program grants and legal settlements — almost any money received for a specific purpose but not generated by the state.



At this point, the money is deposited in the general fund, and how those funds are spent is left to the governor — or maybe the attorney general — or other state agencies.

This bill proposes that the money be deposited in a separate account called the Custodial Funds Transparency Fund and spending decisions be made by the state Legislature during the budget process.

While I trust very little that government does, at least the decisions on how these huge dollars are spent will be in the hands of 100 legislators rather than the sole decision of the governor or some miscellaneous bureaucrat. As is usual in politics, it’s the lesser of two evils, but I’d rather go with this proposal than the current system, so I’m voting “yes” on Amendment 78.

Proposition 119 is complicated. I’ve participated in several presentations on it, and it still gives me fits. I’ll try to keep it simple.

Known as Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress, it generates yet another tax on marijuana and funnels those funds to “school enrichment programs.” The new taxes are estimated to raise more than $87 million next fiscal year, which starts July 2022.

The measure would also annually divert roughly $20 million from the State Land Trust, which helps fund public schools.

So exactly what are “school enrichment programs?” Any program, service, system, activity, materials or purchases that provide additional or development support to youth outside of the regular school day.

Well first, it’s a lot of money. Second, the definition is pretty wide open — too open for my taste. And third, I personally find the marijuana collections being used for school programs to be offensive — however, that’s just a personal opinion.

Two big problems, however, are what have finally caused me to say “no way.”

First, if passed, it will require a new state agency to be formed called the Colorado Learning Authority. It will have a nine-member board appointed by the governor. So nine people appointed by the governor will control all that money with essentially no oversight. They will decide criteria and providers and will have no oversight from the State Board of Education or the Colorado Department of Education — the only good news so far.

For me, it’s too much money being administered by an appointed board with no accountability that I can find. The docs don’t even mention requirements or term limits or compensation. While I think a program like this could — I did not say will — provide some great services, another bureaucracy with no accountability is a huge mistake and just sets up a sure thing for more waste and government control with very nebulous facts to support any part of its implementation or continued process.

Like a lot of government programs, they are enticing at first glance, but when really examined are just more government BS, even with the best intentions. So I’m voting a resounding “no” on Prop 119.

Last but not least, Proposition 120, also known as Property Tax Assessment Rate Reduction.

This is another one that had me scratching my head. It proposes to reduce tax assessments only on multifamily housing and lodging properties. It does not reduce assessments on other residential and nonresidential property, nor does it affect the Homestead Tax Exemption.

I’ve read it all and still scratch my head. Theoretically, the hope is that lowered taxes on these properties will result in lower rental rates and may urge more development of this type to help solve the housing shortage. That’s a lot of ifs for me. It can also reduce tax receipts for government services, requiring a shift in priorities or collection from other sources.

I guess my problem with many requests like this is that it’s like throwing Jell-O at the wall to see what sticks.

So, the fundamental decision for me comes down to this:

Does it reduce taxes? Yes.

Does it reduce another level of government? Seems so.

Does it return more control to citizens? I’d say yes, as far as I can tell.

I’m unenthusiastically voting “yes.” I just wish that any of these measures could be clearer in both their intent and the expected results. But I guess that concept is an oxymoron when applied to politics.


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