Seldom do voters get a chance to vote themselves a raise. That's exactly what Proposition 116 does for them.
The ballot question is simple: "Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes reducing the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%?"
Of course there should be such a change. Working Coloradans remain mired in the challenges of a COVID-19 economy. To get through it, state, federal and local governments have offered all assortment of assistance. They have issued mandates suspending rents and forbidding evictions. They have eased restrictions on tapping into 401K funds and other investments. The federal government and states have streamlined small business loans and sent checks to consumers, whether or not they've lost income as a result of COVID-19. All school children will eat free from October through December and possibly beyond.
Even most staunch fiscal conservatives understand the need for governments to support workers, business owners, families, children and the economy during this unprecedented challenge. Without businesses and their employees, the economy generates nothing for governments. By helping people get through this, the government invests in the future.
There can be no more swift, fair and efficient vehicle than tax relief for economic aid. By reducing income taxes, even by a slight margin, people keep more of what they earn. That, as opposed to sending what they earn to a government that must process the money into packaged aid and send it back as recovery funds.
Prop 116 is a reasonable proposal, put forth by Colorado's non-partisan Independence Institute. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, a tax policy protege of acclaimed economist Art Laffer, advocated for a tax cut during his 2018 campaign. He did so because working Coloradans could use more take-home pay.
Polis has praised the intent of Prop 116, though an enthusiastic and outright endorsement would be nice. We know he considers 116 reasonable, as last year he advocated lowering income taxes considerably more.
In the minds of pro-tax Democrats, a good chunk of wages belong to the government even though workers rightfully earn them. As such, they talk about "paying" for any proposed tax cut — as if the money is the state's, to begin with. They openly ask "how will we pay for it?" In this case, the proposed tax cut is almost entirely "paid for."
That's because in July Polis signed into law a long list of tax deductions contained in House Bill 1420. The bill’s fiscal impact statement estimates the law will give state government an additional $94.1 million in 2020-21 at a direct cost to taxpayers. Without a tax cut, Polis will have raised taxes in contradiction of his campaign promise.
In Colorado, the state Constitution makes tax policy a direct responsibility of taxpayers who vote. When upheld, the Constitution's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights means governments cannot change tax policy without a vote of the people. Typically, politicians go to the ballot asking the people to raise their taxes.
Prop 116 turns the typical ask on its head. It empowers taxpayers to keep more of what they earn at a time when too many Coloradans struggle just to keep the bills paid, roofs over their heads and food on the table. Help all Coloradans through the pandemic by voting "yes" on Prop 116.