Guest opinion: Amendment 51 |

Guest opinion: Amendment 51

Rep. Bob Gardner and Frances Owens
Contributed report
Aspen CO, Colorado

As long-term advocates for people with developmental disabilities, we disagree with The Aspen Times on Amendment 51 ” and urge a yes vote.

Some may question why two fiscally conservative Republicans support Amendment 51. It is because the constraints on our state budget prohibit any other way to provide the funds necessary to tackle a problem of this magnitude other than going to the voters. Colorado’s developmental disability levy is about to break, and, as of now, there is no other realistic alternative to address this growing crisis. Without Amendment 51, real people ” not a special interest group ” with mental retardation, down syndrome or cerebral palsy will continue to suffer.

Due to a lack of funds, thousands of Coloradans with developmental disabilities have been waiting 10 years or longer for critical services that allow them to live dignified and healthy lives: daily living support, 24/7 supervision, employment training, nursing services or transportation. Many of their family caregivers can no longer help because of age or illness. Many caregivers will die before their sons or daughters receive the services they need. In fact, more than 9,000 Coloradans with developmental disabilities are being cared for by parents 60 years or older.

Amendment 51 helps people who need it most. When passed, it will create a critically needed safety net for 12,400 eligible children and adults with developmental disabilities who need ” but do not receive ” care. It provides new funds through a modest sales tax increase of two-10ths of 1 percent ” two pennies on $10 ” excluding tax on essential items such as gasoline, groceries and prescription medications.

This statutory (not constitutional) proposal helps people like Russell and his mom. Russell is a 63-year-old man with mental retardation who lives with his 85-year-old mother because he needs help to eat, dress, bathe and use the toilet. His mom put him on the waiting list more than 15 years ago. Because of age and failing health, she worries constantly who will care for Russell when she dies.

Amendment 51 helps children like Sam, a 4-year-old with autism and multiple physical disabilities, who could learn to walk, talk, feed himself and play with other children if he was not waiting at the bottom of the list for services.

For Sam, Russell and his mom, and thousands more Coloradans, there is absolutely no safety net for the vital services they need.

Under Amendment 51, the spare change in our pockets, the pennies on the sidewalk we often just step over, will add up to more than $186 million each year. For most of us, it is an unnoticeable amount ” but those pennies will help more than 12,000 children and adults who, through no fault of their own, face tremendous burdens every day just getting by.

For us, this is a tax that matters. As a state, we owe it to our families, our friends and our neighbors with developmental disabilities to consider this measure. Collectively, we can remedy this situation.

Now is the time to help those who need it most. Vote yes on 51.

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