DENVER — Every election every year, voters are asked a simple question: yes or no. This year’s questions range from housing, to alcohol, to taxes, all of which will impact the lives of residents in one way or another.
One of the 11 questions voters will face this November could change the information that appears on ballots moving forward.
What Proposition GG Does
Proposition GG asks voters whether there should be a change in Colorado law to require ballots to feature a table on them showing the effects of a citizen-led income tax change based on people's different wage brackets.
If the measure is approved, any time a citizen-led income tax increase or decrease appears on the ballot moving forward, a table would also need to appear. That same table must also be included on the petitions proponents of the change use to collect signatures in order to get the tax rate change onto the ballot.
Eight categories would need to appear on the ballot table. They would show the change in taxes for the following wage brackets:
- $25,000 or less
- $25,001 - $50,000
- $50,001 - $100,000
- $100,001 - $200,000
- $200,001 - $500,000
- $500,001 - $1,000,000
- $1,000,001 - $2,000,000
- $2,000,001 - $5,000,000
The table would also need to feature the current average income tax owed by each bracket, the average income tax each bracket would owe if the measure passes, and the difference in rates.
This question made it on the November ballot after state lawmakers passed a bill to ask voters about the change.
The More Information the Better
Supporters of the ballot measure say the more information voters can see on the ballot, the more informed of a decision they can make.
“In Colorado, voters have more responsibility than they have in any other state in the country because they make direct choices about tax policy,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Jefferson.
Proposition GG would be limited to changes to the income tax, so there would not be a new table for every statewide tax change that appears on ballots.
Because of Colorado law, ballot questions are phrased in long queries that often include a lot of legalese, so it can be confusing for voters to understand exactly what they are voting on and the effect it will have on them.
Kennedy believes this table will help clear up the confusion when people are filling out their ballot.
“Some voters might say, 'Oh, gosh, this is only going to save my family $20 a year.' But these millionaires over here, they're going to get a $500 tax break. I think that's going to change the way that they think about these measures when they realize how directly it impacts them,” he said. “At the end of the day, all this is, is giving more information to voters. What they do with that information is up to them.”
Other supporters like Scott Wasserman from the Bell Policy Center say voters often have a lot of questions they face each election, and this will put the information they need to make an informed decision right at their fingertips.
“People voted for TABOR in 1992. Thirty years later it is still shaping public policy in the state. So, like I say, candidates come and go, those ballot issues stick around for a really long time,” he said.
Complex and Confusing
Opponents of Proposition GG, meanwhile, say this measure will only add to the intricacy of Colorado ballots.
“I just don't think it's a good idea to make the ballot language more complex and longer. If you talk to anybody they say, you know, it's hard to get through the ballot to read it all to understand it all,” said Michael Fields, a senior advisor with Advanced Colorado Action, a conservative political group.
Fields points out that this information is already available in the voter information guide, otherwise known as the Blue Book. That information was mandated to be included in the voter guide by the legislature last year.
Proposition 121 is an example of this. On page 24 of the Blue Book, there is a chart that breaks down the tax changes for this year’s proposed income tax reduction. The income breakdowns are different than what Proposition GG proposes. Proposition GG includes some additional information, like the estimated number of taxpayers that are in each bracket.
That information will continue to remain in the Blue Book regardless of whether Proposition GG passes.
“I think really, the legislature is trying to bias the language against voting for tax cuts, and in favor of tax increases,” Fields said.
If that’s the case, Fields wonders what is to prevent the next legislature from coming around and adding different information to the ballot that could influence public opinions on what is supposed to be a nonpartisan ballot.
In the end, Fields says he believes the measure is confusing and unnecessary.
A Longer Ballot
At the Denver election headquarters, officials are bracing for November’s big ballot return. Between all of the statewide questions, the candidate races and some local issues, this year’s ballot is long.
Voters in the city and county will be receiving three double-sided cards of ballot questions. That’s more than a million pieces of paper for Denver election officials to process this year alone, which is time consuming.
“It's a lot of paper and paper, as you know, has gotten much more expensive,” said Todd Davidson, Denver’s director of elections.
This year, clerk and recorder offices are already experiencing additional costs for the paper the ballots are printed on due to a supply shortage and inflation.
Those higher prices are expected to stick around for the next few years.
While these income tax questions don’t come up all that often, they have been raised twice in the past few years.
Adding this table to the ballot will inevitably make the ballots longer and nominally add to their cost.
Every election every year, voters are asked to weigh in on a variety of different issues that will impact their daily lives. Rarely, however, do they have a chance to weigh in on what information appears on their ballots in the first place.
This November, voters will decide whether they want to reshape ballot questions when it comes to income taxes.
Full ballot guide
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