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Opinion: Prop. 116 would divert money from schools and health care. Why you should vote no.

Colorado legislators say that Proposition 116 would make economic hardships and disparities even worse

A good rule of thumb when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

Coloradans are working to overcome many difficulties right now. The worst thing that could happen is approving Proposition 116 (formerly known as Initiative 306), which would take even more money out of our schools and our health care system to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

Our state’s economy was among the best in the nation at the beginning of the year, and COVID case incidence has been lower than in many other parts of our country. Nonetheless, more than a thousand of our fellow Coloradans have lost their lives due to COVID-19, and thousands more have lost their jobs due to the COVID recession.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, Rep. Emily Sirota, Rep. Mike Weissman

As state legislators, we did everything we could this year to address the public health and economic impacts of COVID while complying with our state constitution’s requirement to enact a balanced budget, which meant cutting more than $3 billion from investments Coloradans value like K-12 and higher education and transportation infrastructure investments. The next budget year will likely bring great challenges as well.

Proposition 116 deceptively proposes to help. In fact, 116 will do literally nothing for about one quarter of Coloradans and quite little for most others, while handsomely benefitting the most well-off corporations and individuals and making it harder for our public schools, teachers and health care providers to do the important work we rely on them to do.

In other words, just when we need to work together to climb out of a hole, Proposition 116 offers us a power shovel that would dig us in deeper.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

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Proposition 116 would permanently reduce the state’s income tax rate. The problem with that is not everyone actually benefits equally. Coloradans who are struggling the most — including who work in lower wage sectors, or who’ve faced reduced hours or layoffs due to COVID — and have no federal tax liability at all after allowable deductions would receive zero benefit. Twenty-five percent of Coloradans are in this category.

Middle income Coloradans would save a few tens of dollars per year. For example, someone with federal taxable income of $50,000 after allowable deductions (which means take-home earnings considerably higher than $50,000) would receive $40 in benefit.

On the other hand, someone lucky enough to have taxable income of $1 million (less than 1% of Coloradans) would receive nearly $1,000, and a large Colorado corporation with $10 million in taxable income would receive nearly $10,000.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

To be plain about, at a time when EVERYONE in Colorado is struggling, Proposition 116 is a measure to benefit mostly the very well off.

What will this cost us? Over $400 million in the first three years alone, and $170 to $180 million per year after that, permanently.

That means our schools, already among the least funded in the nation, would face greater cuts, even as they try to meet new challenges of remote instruction.

That means affordable health care could slip further out of reach for more Coloradans, even as health care matters more now than it ever has.

That means our roads, already crowded as our state grows quickly, won’t be able to keep up.

That means our state would be less able to dedicate resources to affordable housing and small business assistance to aid in COVID recovery.

And under a decades-old provision of Colorado’s constitution, the state legislature would be unable to revise these changes, even in response to public demand, even by a unanimous vote.

Earlier this year, we supported legislation to close over $100 million in special interest tax loopholes benefitting a very few and at the same time reduce the taxes owed by hard-working Coloradans.

We hope to continue that kind of work next year as our state continues to recover from COVID. THAT is the kind tax change Colorado needs, not measures like Proposition 116 that would benefit a few at the expense of everyone else.

Even before COVID, too many Coloradans were finding it harder and harder to keep up with the rising cost of living even while working full time or multiple jobs. COVID has laid bare these challenges and made them greater. Proposition 116 would make them even worse.

We strongly urge Coloradans to vote NO on Proposition 116.


Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, represents Colorado’s 21st Senate district. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, represents Colorado’s 9th House District. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, represents Colorado’s 36th House District.

Also signing:

  • Sen. Steve Fenberg (SD 18)
  • Sen. Julie Gonzales (SD 34)
  • Sen. Pete Lee (SD 11)
  • Sen. Brittany Pettersen (SD 22)
  • Sen. Tammy Story (SD 16)
  • Sen. Nancy Todd (SD 28)
  • Sen. Angela Williams (SD 33)
  • Sen. Faith Winter (SD 24)
  • Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (SD 19)
  • Rep. KC Becker (HD 13)
  • Rep. Shannon Bird (HD 35)
  • Rep. Janet Buckner (HD 40)
  • Rep. Yadira Caraveo (HD 31)
  • Rep. Lisa Cutter (HD 25)
  • Rep. Monica Duran (HD 24)
  • Rep. Daneya Esgar (HD 46)
  • Rep. Meg Froelich (HD 3)
  • Rep. Alec Garnett (HD 2)
  • Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (HD 4)
  • Rep. Matt Gray (HD 33)
  • Rep. Dominique Jackson (HD 42)
  • Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis (HD 12)
  • Rep. Chris Kennedy (HD 23)
  • Rep. Cathy Kipp (HD 52)
  • Rep. Susan Lontine (HD 1)
  • Rep. Julie McCluskie (HD 61)
  • Rep. Barbara McLachlan (HD 59)
  • Rep. Dylan Roberts (HD 26)
  • Rep. Jonathan Singer (HD 11)
  • Rep. Marc Snyder (HD 18)
  • Rep. Tom Sullivan (HD 37)
  • Rep. Kerry Tipper (HD 28)
  • Rep. Brianna Titone (HD 27)
  • Rep. Steven Woodrow (HD 6)
  • Rep. Mary Young (HD 50)

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