A look at proposed Colorado initiatives — Amendments 50 and 51

With more initiatives (14) on the 2008 Colorado ballot than any year since 1912 (the first year Colorado enabled initiative and referendum), The SUN will provide its readers with a guide to ballot initiatives during the weeks leading up to the start of early voting.

In the guide you’ll find the full text of the initiative as it is presented on the ballot, an explanation of the initiative in layman’s terms, and both pro and con arguments for the initiative. Hopefully, with clarification of the initiatives in simple language, as well as a balanced presentation of arguments for and against the initiatives, SUN readers who vote will have a clearer view of how they will decide the issues on the ballot.

Amendment 50

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning voter-approved revisions to limited gaming, and, in connection therewith, allowing the local voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to extend casino hours of operation, approved games to include roulette and craps or both, and maximum single bets up to $100; adjusting distributions to current gaming fund recipients for growth in gaming tax revenue due to voter-approved revisions in gaming; distributing 78% of the remaining gaming tax revenue from this amendment for student financial aid and classroom instruction at community colleges according to the proportion of their respective student enrollments, and 22% for local gaming impacts in Gilpin and Teller counties and the cities of Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek according to the proportion of increased tax revenue from voter-approved revisions in each city or county; and requiring any increase in gaming taxes from the levels imposed as of July 1, 2008 to be approved at a statewide election, if local voters in one or more cities have approved any revision to limited gaming?

Simply stated: Amendment 50 would permit voters in the towns that allow gambling to vote to extend the hours of operations for casinos, add craps and/or roulette to the list of allowed games, and raise the maximum bet to $100 from the current $5.

Extra tax revenues generated from the changes would be split so that the towns making the changes would receive 22 percent of the revenues while the other 78 percent would go to student financial aid for higher education. Only higher learning establishments operating by July 1, 2008 would be eligible to receive those funds. Finally, any increase in gaming taxes would need to be approved by Colorado voters.

Pro: Colorado has the most restrictive gaming limitations in the country and by allowing the towns to vote for expansion of gambling could help make them more competitive with other states that allow gambling.

Increased tax revenues derived from raising bet limits and expanding casino hours would add more money into student financial aid programs, assisting more low-income people in achieving a higher education.

Con: Gambling comes with its own set of problems (which will not be dealt with here) that would only be exacerbated if towns voted to raise betting limits and expand casino hours of operation. Furthermore, even if Blackhawk, Central City and Cripple Creek do not vote to raise limits or extend casino hours, Indian casinos, currently restricted by state gambling limits, would likely take advantage of this amendment if it passed.

Finally, it should be asked if this matter really warrants a place in the state constitution as an amendment or if this should be a matter of statutory law.

Amendment 51

Shall state taxes shall be increased $185.1 million annually after full implementation by the amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning an increase in the state sales and use tax to provide funding for long-term services for persons with developmental disabilities, and in connection therewith, increasing the rate of the state sales and use tax beginning on July 1, 2009, by one-tenth of one percent in each of the next two fiscal years; permitting the state to retain and spend all revenues from the new tax, notwithstanding the state spending limit; requiring an amount equal to the net revenue from the new tax to be deposited in the newly created Developmental Disabilities Long-Term Service Cash Fund; requiring the money in the fund to be used to provide long-term services for the persons with developmental disabilities; and prohibiting reductions in the level of state appropriations in the annual general appropriations bill existing on the effective date of this measure for long-term services for persons with developmental disabilities?

Simply stated: Amendment to raise state taxes $185.1 million annually in order to fund long-term services for persons with developmental disabilities.

Pro: Individuals with developmental disabilities, and the families who care for them, are finding it more and more difficult in finding assistance for long-term care. Individuals with developmental disabilities require a lifetime of care and can often fall through the cracks when parents or caretakers become elderly or pass away. A safety net needs to be in place for these individuals requiring long-term care.

Con: Noble as this initiative’s goals may be, it has no place in the state Constitution. Furthermore, in this current economic situation, a tax increase is the last thing voters should be looking for. Hopefully, as economic conditions improve, advocates for this measure can seek additional funding for the long-term care of individuals with developmental disabilities in the appropriate manner: through state legislators and statutory law.