John Colson: I’m voting no on Proposition 120 |

John Colson: I’m voting no on Proposition 120

John Colson
Hit & Run

Election day 2021 is upon us (OK, it’s next week, Nov. 2, but you know what I mean) and though I wanted to step away from the ballot and let readers make up their own minds without my interference, I found I could not do so.

That’s because I have tremendous reservations about the statewide ballot questions facing voters, and being the opinionated muckraker that I am, I am putting those reservations on public display.

Actually, I already laid out my objections to Amendment 78 in a previous column (“A Colorado ‘solution’ looking for a problem” on Oct. 19).

This week, then, I’ll be tackling mainly Prop. 120, a move to trim property tax rates for certain types of property, which is poised to do incalculable harm to smaller taxing districts around Colorado, such as school districts and fire departments, specifically.

I should note, first, that I am not a knee-jerk, anti-tax kind of guy. Year in and year out, in my 43 years of living and opining in different communities around the Western Slope of the Rockies, I generally am supportive of tax increases when I conclude they are needed and not harmful.

In the case of Prop. 120, however, I have come to the opposite conclusion — this particular tax cut is not needed, in my view, and it definitely has great potential to do significant harm to a wide range of taxing districts that provide a variety of services to the public.

Prop. 120, as originally conceived and written, would have slashed property tax rates for all residential properties around the state and for commercial properties as well.

But last summer the state legislature, alarmed at the prospect of losing a billion dollars a year and more from Colorado’s revenue stream, passed a law (SB21-293) that recategorized properties and essentially undermined the effects of Prop. 120, so that it now would only affect multi-family housing and commercial lodging properties.

The result is that local governments stand to lose only about $45 million in the first year — if Prop. 120 passes and SB21-293 is not thrown out by the courts — perhaps $50 million in the second year of the new tax regime, and likely more in future years.

If SB21-293 is tossed by the courts (and Prop. 120 proponents have promised to try to make that happen), then the losses in annual revenue will be in the billions over the course of the coming few years alone.

According to analyses by progressive government watchdogs, Prop. 120 is designed to provide a tax cut to rich property holders while undercutting public fiscal support for services that we all need.

In the words of the Progress Now Progressive Voters Guide, Prop. 120 would “have the effect of primarily benefiting wealthy property owners while robbing funding from critical public investments like education and infrastructure,” which includes such things as water districts, fire departments, police agencies and other needed public services.

Many news agencies across the state have editorialized against Prop. 120, and the managers of numerous special taxing districts have been sounding the alarm about the deeply confusing nature of the proposition as it is printed in the Nov. 2 ballot.

Because the ballot question for Prop. 120 had already been finalized before the legislature passed SB21-293, the ballot language seen by voters does not reflect the changes caused by the new law, which is likely to cause considerable confusion among voters.

For that reason, along with the fiscal chaos that could result among the state’s special taxing districts, I’ll be voting no on Prop. 120, and I recommend you, the reader, do likewise if you are a Colorado resident and voter.

It may be that our state is in need of some adjustment in its tax rates, but the way to do that correctly is to avoid the kind of confusion we are now faced with.

Prop. 120, like Amendment 78, was placed on the ballot by a conservative, tax-hating organization known as Colorado Rising Action, run by conservative activist Michael Fields. And as most of us know by now, it has long been a goal of conservatives in Colorado to starve our state government of funding as a way of killing off any progressive or compassionate programs, laws or services offered by the state.

I find it additionally confusing that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who was elected as a relatively progressive politician, has said he will be voting in favor of Prop. 120, according to the Colorado Sun online news outlet.

One of his staffers, according to a news report, was quick to note that while Polis said he would be voting for the measure, he was not officially endorsing it as governor.

Take all of this any way you like to, but please vote no on Prop. 120. You can drop off your ballot at any of the ballot boxes in the county before 7 p.m. on Election Night or vote in-person through Election Day at the Pitkin County admin building in Aspen.

Email at

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to reflect that votes should drop off ballots at drop boxes but not mail them after Monday (Oct. 25).


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