Proposition GG is a ballot measure about ballot measures.
It represents Colorado’s latest battleground over the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights as Democrats seek to work around the 1992 constitutional amendment, known as TABOR, and Republicans battle to prevent any changes. The initiative, if passed, would require the state to more prominently display detailed information about how citizen-initiated ballot measures changing the income tax rate would affect Coloradans.
Proposition GG was referred to the ballot by Democrats in the Colorado legislature this year through the passage of Senate Bill 222, a measure that Republicans universally opposed
Here’s what you need to know about Proposition GG:
What it would do
When an initiative changing Colorado’s income tax rate makes the statewide ballot, a table outlining how the change would affect people at different income levels is shared in the state ballot information booklet — also known as the blue book — that’s sent to every voter.
The table includes the average income tax owed by people at different income levels, as well as how much higher or lower their taxes would be if the rate were changed.
Proposition 121 on the November ballot is a great example of this. It would change Colorado’s income tax rate to 4.4% from 4.55%, and on page 24 of your (English-language) blue book this year you can see a table explaining how it would affect people at different income levels.
Proposition GG would require that the table — with some slight modifications — also be included in petitions used to gather signatures to get income tax changes on the ballot, as well as on ballots.
The slight modifications include only specifying eight income tax categories and more specific information about how income tax changes would affect individual taxpayers.
Note: Proposition GG only applies to citizen-initiated ballot measures. If the legislature were to refer a measure changing the income tax rate to the ballot it wouldn’t apply.
The arguments for
The proponents of Proposition GG say it is a tax-transparency measure aimed at ensuring Coloradans have a full picture of how changes to the state’s income tax rate would affect them.
Some people do not open the blue book, people who support the measure say, so Proposition GG is a way to ensure they can’t miss information about potential changes to the state’s income tax.
“I honestly think it’s pretty simple,” said state Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Lakewood Democrat and prime sponsor of Senate Bill 222. “It’s about giving voters more information about how income tax changes affect them personally.”
Kennedy said the current information on the ballot isn’t sufficient.
The arguments against
Conservatives argue Proposition GG is unnecessary since detailed information on how income tax rate changes would affect Coloradans is already in the blue book. Adding more information to the ballot would also increase printing costs.
“I hear from a lot of people that our ballot language is already way too long and too complicated,” said Michael Fields, a conservative fiscal policy activist. “This legislature should spend more time on increasing public safety and lowering the cost of living — and less on meddling in the citizens’ initiative process.”
Jesse Mallory, who leads the Colorado branch of Americans For Prosperity, an organization that fiercely defends TABOR, said “nothing screams ‘our friends have a tax increase coming’ quite like (this bill).”
One big thing you should know
Since Proposition GG asks voters to approve a statutory change, state lawmakers could have tried to make the alterations on their own by passing a bill and asking the governor to sign it into law.
But the Democratic proponents of the policy had a major roadblock in Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who was wary of the change and appeared poised to veto any legislation aiming to alter ballot language.
“Gov. Polis believes that voters should decide how issues are presented on the people’s ballot because it is their ballot, not the state legislature’s ballot,” Kara Powell, a spokeswoman for the governor, told The Colorado Sun earlier this year. “That includes whether or not to approve requiring a table in the fiscal summary for any ballot initiative that would increase or decrease the tax rate.”
That’s why lawmakers went around the governor and referred Proposition GG to the November ballot through Senate Bill 222. (The governor’s signature isn’t required on bills referring questions to the ballot.)
One more thing you should know: Proposition GG comes as Colorado Democrats are trying to find ways to work on tax policy within the confines of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Proposition GG is an extension of legislation passed by Democratic lawmakers in 2021 requiring that ballot measures cutting taxes include an explanation of how much revenue would be slashed and what programs would be most affected. The 2021 bill also now requires that ballot initiatives raising taxes explain how the new revenue would be spent.
In fact, the 2021 bill is the reason why there is a table in the blue book explaining how people in different income brackets would be affected by income tax rate changes.
The players and the money
Coloradans for Ballot Transparency is the issue committee supporting Proposition GG.
Denverite Merle Chambers, a longtime Democratic donor and former oil and gas executive, gave $100,000 to the group in May.
The committee raised $600,000 in August, $500,000 of which came from the national nonprofit Sixteen Thirty Fund, which is aligned with Democrats. The Sun refers to the nonprofit as a dark-money group because it is a political group that does not have to disclose its donors.
The Rose Community Foundation donated $50,000 to the committee Sept. 12. And the National Education Association gave Coloradans for Ballot Transparency $250,000 on Sept. 21.
Coloradans for Ballot Transparency spent $400,000 in mid-September to advertise about the ballot measure.
So far, no organized opposition to the measure has emerged.