Coloradans were asked this election to approve or reject nine ballot initiatives. Four key initiatives determined the fate of the oil and gas industry, sought to improve infrastructure and highways, and increase taxes to send more money to public schools.
Voters overwhelmingly voted against raising taxes and against prohibitions on the state’s oil and gas industry.
With 55 percent of precincts reporting, 56 percent of voters rejected Amendment 73, the Establish Income Tax Brackets and Raise Taxes for Education Initiative, which proposed increasing taxes by $1.5 billion. The proposal sought to amend the state constitution to replace Colorado’s flat rate income tax with a progressive income tax. Individuals earning more than $150,000 would have been taxed more and the corporate income tax rate would have increased. The amendment also exempted new education spending from the state’s constitutionally mandated limits established by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The amendment came at a time when “Colorado school funding is at its highest levels ever,” Linda Gorman, a director at the Denver-based Independence Institute, told Watchdog.org. “At current spending levels, there is no correlation between per-pupil state spending increases and achievement. The tax increases are aimed at businesses and ending Colorado's flat tax.”
Two measures proposed to fix Colorado roads and transportation, Propositions 109 and 110 came after state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 in May, which designated $495 million toward transportation. Voters overwhelming rejected both proposals by roughly 60 percent each.
More than 60 percent of voters rejected Proposition 109, the "Fix Our Damn Roads" Transportation Bond Initiative. The initiative asked voters to approve new bonding and limit the spendinge of the funds to specific projects – without raising taxes. It would have authorized $3.5 billion in bonds with proceeds to be used exclusively for road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance, and repair of specific statewide projects. It prohibits the use of funds for transit, administration, or indirect costs and expenses. It stipulated that the principal and interest on the borrowed money would be paid through the state budget annually.
Nearly 60 percent of voters rejected the alternative, Proposition 110, the "Let's Go Colorado" Transportation Bond and Sales Tax Increase Initiative. This proposal would have increased the state sales tax rate for 20 years to fund transportation.
Perhaps the most consequential vote, one that could have resulted in the outgoing governor calling a special session to address, rejected a measure that would have restricted the state’s oil and gas development. Proposition 112, the Minimum Distance Requirements for New Oil, Gas, and Fracking Projects Initiative, would have mandated that new oil and gas development projects, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as vulnerable. The proposed distance was five times the distance of the existing requirement.
Colorado is the sixth-largest oil producer in the U.S. with an estimated oil and gas development production value exceeding $10.9 billion.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed the initiative, said that he would have considered calling a special session if voters approved the measure. That possibility is now moot.
Voters approved ballot initiatives that created an independent commission for congressional redistricting and for state legislative redistricting. They rejected a proposal that would have compensated property owners impacted by state regulations, and supported limiting payday loan charges and limiting campaign contributions.