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Problem Solvers guide to 2018 Colorado election

DENVER — Ballots have officially been mailed out in Colorado for the 2018 election. The race for governor is already the most expensive in Colorado history. It is also an election defined by high-impact ballot measures and the possibility of what some Democrats hope will be a “blue wave.”

The FOX31 Problem Solvers put together this guide to help you make an informed decision in this election.

This guide is not meant to tell you how to vote — it is meant to help educate and inform. 

The Problem Solvers already this election cycle has been busy fact checking the commercials through our Truth Check series.

Below we will look at the biggest issues facing voters regionally and statewide.

Governor Race 

A COMPLETE IN DEPTH GUIDE TO THE GOVERNOR CANDIDATES, INCLUDING VIDEO INTERVIEWS, CAN BE FOUND HERE.

Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton are squaring off to succeed Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term limited.

Polis is ahead in most polling but Stapleton’s campaign is keeping the race competitive.

From a biography perspective, both candidates have an impressive history of public service. Stapleton has been state treasurer since 2010. Polis has been a Congressman since 2009 and before that on the Colorado State Board of Education.

Both candidates have considerable personal wealth. Polis is consistently ranked as one of the wealthiest members of Congress with a net worth of $400 million while Stapleton has a net worth in the millions.

Stapleton earned his money through inheritance, Wall Street jobs, tech startups in California, and commercial property positions in Colorado and elsewhere prior to running for State Treasurer.

Polis earned his money through successful internet and investing endeavors. For instance, Polis founded ProFlowers.com.

On the issues, both candidates are as different as can be.

Polis believes in Medicare for All, although it is not apart of his 100 day strategy he would implement immediately if he takes office. Medicare for All is the progressive belief that healthcare would be cheaper if all citizens had access to the program currently reserved for older Americans.

Stapleton is against this proposal. While Stapleton was initially against the Affordable Care Act, Stapleton now says he embraces it but say he would convene a task force to look for abuses in Medicaid.

On taxes, Stapleton supported the Trump tax cuts, Polis did not.

On energy, Polis is for making Colorado 100-percent renewable by 2040 by offering companies and individual incentives. Stapleton has criticized that proposal as a “giant energy tax” and has the support of the oil and gas industry.

Both candidates are opposed to Proposition 112, the oil and gas ballot measure which you can read about more below.

On transportation, neither candidate supports Proposition 110, the ballot measure which would raise the state sales tax .62 percent to better fund roads.

Stapleton supports Proposition 109, a bonding measure for transportation. Polis does not support this for he believes it will put education funding at risk in future years when the state has to pay back the bonds. Both candidates have said they would look to existing dollars to better fund transportation projects.

On education, neither candidate supports Amendment 73, which is the statewide ballot measure to increase income taxes to better fund education. Polis has committed to funding full day Kindergarten in his first year in office with a goal of funding preschool programs in future years. Stapleton has committed to getting more dollars to the classroom by cutting administrative positions.

If Polis wins, he would be the first openly gay governor ever elected in Colorado. He would also be the first Jewish. If Stapleton wins he would continue a family history of leadership in Colorado – his great grandfather was the 33rd Mayor of Denver.

Statewide Ballot Measures

Amendments go directly into the state constitution; Propositions can be amended slightly by the General Assembly

AMENDMENT 73 – Income tax increase to better fund education

Earlier this year, Colorado experienced teacher walkouts after educators being frustrated over a lack of pay.  As a result, Amendment 73 was proposed. It would increase income taxes on any Coloradan with taxable income of $150,000 a year or more. The corporate tax rate would go from 4.63 percent to 6 percent.

The measure is opposed by Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton.

Teachers have staged rallies in support hoping to increase support while an opposition campaign has formed calling it a “blank check.” The Proposal would generate over $1.6 billion for education according to the ballot language.

The income tax increase would be this:

0.37 percent increase for income between $150,000 and $200,000;
1.37 percent increase for income between $200,000 and $300,000;
2.37 percent increase  for income between $300,000 and $500,000; and
3.62 percent increase for income above $500,000.

AMENDMENT 74 – Allows property owners to sue if government devalues land

In short, if a local or state government makes a decision that would devalue your property, you would be entitled compensation.

The measure, proposed by the Colorado Farm Bureau, is intended to give property owners more rights however local and state leaders have said it could create massive unintended consequences.

City leaders have said it would make local governments liable for almost any decision – from approving 7-11s to oil and gas decisions.

FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George covered the amendment in August.

AMENDMENT 75 – Financial fairness with statewide political campaigns

Currently, the average donor can only give $1,150 to a campaign during an election. Candidates can give their campaign unlimited amounts of money.

Under the proposed ballot measure, if a candidate gives their campaign more than $1 million or solicits donations to a PAC exceeding $1 million, the opposing candidate can  receive donations at a higher threshold. The ballot measure sets that new threshold at five times current limits.

“We are supposed to have an election not an auction in Colorado,” Greg Brophy, a backer of the measure, said.

Brophy says so far no opposition has formed to his proposal. Brophy said even Democratic Nominee Jared Polis is supportive of the idea.

Proposition 109 – Bonds to improve transportation, roads

The Problem Solvers have created a more in depth guide to this issue since it has such a potential to impact our state.

“Fix Our Damn Roads” or Proposition 109 demands the state pass no new taxes for transportation.

Instead it encourages lawmakers to use current funding for $3.5 billion in transportation bonds. The measure is mostly supported by conservatives who oppose tax increases.

Proposition 109 lists 66 projects it will fund with the bonding. They are highway and road projects and include upgrades and widening to I-70 and I-25. Unlike Proposition 110 below, it focus on roads and not other forms of transportation like bike lines or mass transit.

Voters can vote for Proposition 109 and Proposition 110. Voter could also reject both measures.

Proposition 110 – Statewide Sales Tax Increase to improve transportation, roads

The Problem Solvers have created a more in depth guide to this issue since it has such a potential to impact our state.  

Let’s Go Colorado or Proposition 110 is a transportation measure aimed at increasing the state sales tax .62 percent.

That means a $100 purchase will cost 62 cents more. Supporters say it will raise more than $6 billion dollars for transportation needs with over $700 million in new revenue being created in the first year.

Proposition 110 is not as specific with its funding, although it promises to improve I-70 and I-25 as well.

The sales tax increase devotes 45 percent to state highway needs, 40 percent to local government transportation needs, and 15 percent to multimodal forms of transportation like mass transit and bike lanes. The proposal focuses on funding the CDOT priority list. 

Proposition 111- Limits on Payday Loan Charges

Payday loans are often loans paid to struggling Coloradans in need of quick cash. Companies make money by charging high interest rates to those individuals.

Proposition 11 would cap interest rates at 36% annually and eliminate other “service fees” often issued lenders. 

A grassroots campaign supporting this measure has launched saying right now interest rates can now exceed 200-percent.

Proposition 112- Oil and gas measure to restrict new oil and gas development

Proposition 112 is without a doubt one of the most important issues Coloradans will be voting on in November. As a result, a more in depth, separate Problem Solvers Guide has been published.  

Proposition 112 is an effort by Colorado Rising to restrict new oil gas development — banning any new oil and gas development within 2,500 feet of homes, businesses, occupied structures and environmentally sensitive areas.

Currently, oil and gas development cannot take place within 500 feet of homes and businesses and 1,000 feet of schools.

Supporters believe the health and safety of Coloradans are at risk. Opponents, including Protect Colorado, believe it will devastate the economy by effectively shutting down the oil and gas industry.

Proposition 112 is technically an initiative, which means the Colorado General Assembly could pass regulations changing the exact language of the measure if voters approve it into law.

A lengthy court battle is also expected if Proposition 112 passes.

One of the biggest debates with Proposition 112 is how it would hurt the Colorado economy.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and a consortium of Weld County mayors have said the measure would be disastrous to the Colorado economy.

Both candidates for governor — Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton — are opposed to the measure.

RELATED: Truth Check on economic impact of Proposition 112

It is true that many new wells would no longer be built if Proposition 112 passes.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado would be unavailable for development. This study is slightly contracted by a professor at The Colorado School of Mines who says more land will be accessible through horizontal drilling. 

The COGCC estimates 78 percent of surface land in Weld County, a major operator of oil and natural gas, would be off-limits.

However, more than 50,000 active wells exist in Colorado and they would be allowed to still operate.

Those wells will require resources to maintain them and oil and gas operators could still drill horizontally at existing sites.

Oil and gas wells can operate for 20 to 30 years but are most productive in the first few years.

Opponents believe Proposition 112 would cost more than 43,000 jobs in the first year and more than 147,000 jobs by 2030, according to a study commissioned by the Common Sense Policy Round-table. 

Colorado Rising cites a study by the Department of Energy that shows 13,000 existing oil jobs with 9,800 existing natural gas jobs, emphasizing many jobs would be needed to keep up these operations.

Supporters also emphasize the Colorado economy is diversified and oil and gas is not the No. 1 contributor to the GDP.

One reason for Proposition 112 making the ballot is concerns over safety. The Firestone tragedy that killed two in 2017 put intense focus on oil and gas operations.

In November 2017, oil and gas workers were injured and killed in Greeley, continuing the debate on safety.

It remains up in the air, however, if proximity to oil and gas operations poses a risk.

The state concluded in a 2017 study that “the risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living at distances 500 feet or more from oil and gas operations.”

However, supporters of Proposition 112 point to other studies showing an increased risk on topics such as low birth weights. 

It is hard to find a high-ranking public official supporting Proposition 112.

State House Majority Leader KC Becker (D) and Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carrollare the highest-ranking supporters.

From a financial standpoint, the opposition to Proposition 112 is crushing the campaign in favor of it.

Protect Colorado has raised tens of millions of dollars from energy sectors, while supporters have struggled to attract traditional political support.

Amendment A – Repeals Exemptions in the Colorado Constitution to a ban on slavery 

Colorado’s Constitution still contains exemptions to a ban on slavery. The measure would completely ban slavery officially — even though its been illegal for more than a century. This measure was attempted two years ago, but complicated language stopped it from passing.

Amendment V – Reduces Age to be State Legislature from 25 to 21

Currently you must be 25 to be elected to the Colorado General Assembly. This measure reduces it  by four years.

Amendment W – Shortens ballot language on judge questions

If you are reading this with your ballot, you know how long this ballot can be. This measure shortens the ballot by combining some questions when it comes to retaining judges for their positions.

Amendment X – Changes the definition of industrial hemp from a constitutional definition to a statutory definition

Hemp is defined differently in state statutes than it is in the Colorado Constitution. This clears up the legal confusion.

Amendment Y – Changes how elected officials’ district boundaries are drawn.

Currently, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting in Colorado. Amendment Y would establish a 12-member commission to be responsible for approving district maps for Colorado’s congressional districts.

Amendment Z – Changes how elected officials’ district boundaries are drawn.

Currently the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting in Colorado. Amendment Z would establish a 12-member commission to be responsible for approving district maps for Colorado’s State Senators and Representatives.

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