2020 Colorado State Ballot Measures:
What happened and what it means for rural Colorado
The following summary is intended to provide CRHC members with the election results of the eleven 2020 statewide ballot measures. A summary of each measure, election results and the potential rural impact are included. For any additional information or questions about the election results, please contact Kelly Erb, CRHC Policy & Advocacy Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposition 113: National Popular Vote
Result: Passed (52% Yes, 48% No)
What it does: This measure allows Colorado to join other states in casting its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote rather than the winner of the state popular vote. Citizens led the effort to put this on the ballot to overturn a bill that was passed and signed in 2019.
Rural Impact: The proposition may diminish the electoral power of rural Coloradans by awarding all Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote.
Proposition 114: Reintroduction of gray wolves
Result: Passed (50.4% Yes, 49.6% No)
What it does: This measure will reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado and task the state with developing a management plan. It may help an endangered species recover its place in Colorado’s ecology, but the measure faces criticism from ranchers who fear they’ll lose livestock to the predators
Rural Impact: The passage of this proposition may impact farmers and ranchers in rural Colorado by increasing a risk to their livestock.
Proposition 115: Ban on abortions at 22 weeks
Result: Failed (41% Yes, 59% No)
What it does: This measure will make it illegal to perform an abortion beginning at 22 weeks in a pregnancy with an exception if a mother’s life is physically threatened.
Rural Impact: The failure of this proposition makes no changes to abortion access across Colorado.
Proposition 116: State income tax rate reduction
Result: Passed (58% Yes, 42% No)
What it does: This measure will cut the state’s income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%. A person making $50,000 would see their tax burden fall by about $40. This change will reduce the state government’s revenue by an estimated $170 million in the next fiscal year.
Rural Impact: The Colorado state budget already experienced a $3.4 billion deficit in 2020 due to the economic fallout from COVID-19 and things are looking even worse for 2021. This statewide budget crisis combined with the impacts of this measure may continue to erode state funding for healthcare, education, transportation and other priorities.
Proposition 117: Voter approval requirement for creation of fee-based enterprises
Result: Passed (53% Yes, 47% No)
What it does: The proposition requires the creation of any new state program with projected or actual revenue expected to exceed $100 million to go to the voters. This will add a new TABOR-like provision to state law, requiring the state government to get voter permission before it creates major new “enterprises,” which are partially funded by fees.
Rural Impact: The proposition will curtail efforts by state lawmakers to create any new enterprise. The Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (CHASE), created in 2017 to administer the Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) may be impacted, however legal experts insist the impact of the proposition is not retroactive.
Proposition 118: Paid family and medical leave
Result: Passed (57% Yes, 43% No)
What it does: The measure creates a statewide program through the collection of insurance premiums from employers and employees to allow an individual to take paid family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks a year. The program will offer paid leave benefits to workers who have earned at least $2,500 at their job. It also guarantees people won’t be fired while they’re on leave if they have been on the job at least 180 days. When they are on leave, workers’ wages will be partially covered through a state-administered fund. The money in that fund would be supplied by premiums paid by employers and workers, amounting to 0.9 percent of each worker’s wages. Businesses with fewer than 10 people would be exempt from the employer premium, and companies could opt to go with their own leave program instead of participating in the statewide program if it meets set criteria.
Rural Impact: The new program will provide rural Coloradans with access to paid family leave while still protecting small businesses (under 10 employees) that are exempt from the program’s requirements.
Proposition EE: Tobacco and nicotine taxes
Result: Passed (68% Yes, 32% No)
What it does: This measure will raise an estimated $168 million next fiscal year by creating a new tax on nicotine vaping products and raising existing taxes on tobacco products. Vaping product taxes will start at 30% of the manufacturer’s price and eventually rise to 62%. The tax on cigarettes would ramp up from $0.84 a pack today to $2.64 a pack by 2027. Taxes on other tobacco products would grow from 40% today to 62% by 2027. The minimum price for cigarettes would be set at $7 per pack beginning in 2024.
Distribution of tax collected: In FY 2020-21 through FY 2022-23, the bill specifies amounts to be distributed to the Tobacco Tax Cash Fund, General Fund, newly created Rural Schools Cash Fund, with the remainder deposited in the State Education Fund. In subsequent years, the bill specifies amounts to be distributed to the Tobacco Tax Cash Fund, General Fund, newly created Preschool Cash Fund, and the Tobacco Education Programs Fund.
Rural Impact: The passage of proposition EE may decrease vaping usage in teens and adults in rural Colorado. In the first three fiscal years, the nicotine tax will bring in $375 million for the state education fund, which will help mitigate significant state budget cuts due to the COVID-19 economic crisis. It will support affordable housing and eviction assistance for the next few years, which may help support rural Coloradans impacted by the economic downturn from COVID-19. It will also provide much-needed funding for public health agencies in rural Colorado, which have been woefully underfunded for quite some time.
Amendment 76: Citizenship qualification of electors
Result: Passed (63% Yes, 37% No)
What it does: The measure reiterates that only citizens can vote in elections and prevents cities from allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections. It does not apply to home-rule cities and towns. The state already bans non-citizens from voting, but supporters argued the language needs strengthening and point to a handful of cities in other states that allow non-citizens to vote in some local elections. The state constitution currently says that “every citizen” may vote, while the amendment will change it to say that “only citizens” may vote.
Rural Impact: Because the state already bans non-citizens from voting, the amendment will not have a significant impact in rural Colorado. However, local municipalities that may have wanted to allow non-citizens to vote will be barred from doing so.
Amendment C: Bingo raffle rules changes
Result: Passed (52% Yes, 48% No)
What it does: This measure changes how charitable gaming activities are managed. It shortens the time a nonprofit must operate in Colorado before it can apply for a charitable gaming license, from five years to three. It also allows licensees to hire paid staff to operate their bingo games or raffles.
Rural Impact: The reduced regulations and shortened time limits may increase the capacity of rural Colorado non-profits to gain revenue from charitable gaming.
Amendment 77: Local control of gaming limits
Result: Passed (60% Yes, 40% No)
What it does: This measure allows voters in the three cities, including Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek to approve additional games and higher bets. It also allows revenues to go to community colleges.
Rural Impact: All of the casino towns impacted by the measure are located in urban counties. However, the provisions that allow revenues to go to community colleges may increase access to higher education for rural Coloradans.
Amendment B: Gallagher Amendment repeal
Result: Passed (57% Yes, 43% No)
What it does: This passage of this measure repeals the 1982 Gallagher Amendment, which limits homeowners’ property tax to no more than 45% of the combined property tax total for residential and commercial properties. Gallagher effectively forces the state to lower residential property tax rates in order to keep residential tax revenue “balanced” with commercial property revenue. The measure prevents automatic cuts to residential property tax rates in the future. Homeowners’ bills won’t go down, but funding for schools, rural fire districts and other entities that rely on property taxes will stay steady.
Rural Impact: Property taxes fund local governments, including some hospitals, schools, fire departments, etc. The measure prevents automatic cuts to residential property tax rates in the future and allows the state legislature more flexibility to reduce (but not increase) tax rates. If Gallagher has been left in place, it would have resulted in $500-700 million less in local government funding over the next two years, putting pressure on the state budget to backfill that revenue loss. The passage of this measure mitigates the previously impending cuts that could have harmed the sustainability rural hospitals that receive local tax support. More broadly, the passage of the measure also protects other community services such as schools, EMS, etc. from the previously impending cuts.