This Amendment is Still on the Waiting List -- Colorado 2008 Amendment 51
But I figured I should at least read it first. So, here's the bottom line:
The State of Colorado, with the help of a number of local nonprofits, provides a number of services to people with developmental disabilities. These are people who have no means to provide these services for themselves. Unfortunately, there is a waiting list for these services, and that waiting list is getting longer rather than shorter. In fact, there are 9,700 people on the waiting list and funding for only about 11,800 to receive the services. In four years, the number of people on the waiting list is expected to exceed the number of people receiving services.
The authors of this measure have a solution. That solution is a 0.2% sales tax increase (phased in over two years) that can only be used to provide these services and bring down the waiting list.
So far so good. The state has signed up to provide services to a population that relies on and has no other way of getting them, and the state can't afford to adequately provide these services. These are services such as job training, speech therapy, physical therapy, even basic long-term care. This measure would bring in more money to meet that commitment.
Here's the downside. A sales tax is a regressive tax, and it would be increasing at a time when the economy is in pretty bad shape. In Boulder, the tax total sales tax paid by each person would increase by more than 2%. This increase is almost as bad as getting a 0.2% pay cut. The people paying the tax would be those who are struggling most. The tax revenue would be earmarked, which means that it could not be spent on anything else. If any other state spending priority needs more money, its supporters will just have to get their own earmarked tax increase.
I would agree that deciding public spending priorities through earmarking at the ballot box is an incredibly bad way to run a government. It's where we've ended up, and I don't see a way out of this cycle.
This measure comes down to one simple thing, then. Do you believe that the state's obligation to help people with developmental disabilities is strong enough to override the negatives of an earmarked sales tax increase in a poor economy? I guess the guilt has gotten to me, but just barely, and I'm going to go for this one.
Vote YES on Amendment 51.