Last week, the Herald looked at two citizen initiatives on November’s ballot concerning abortion and state income tax. Up this week are Proposition 117 and 118 — concerning state enterprises and paid medical leave.
Prop. 117, a citizen initiative, will decide whether voters must approve the creation of state enterprises expected to exceed $100 million in fee revenue in their first five years of operation.
In Colorado, state enterprises are government-owned businesses predominantly funded by fees, not taxes. State enterprises are exempt from the voter-consent requirements outlined in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
To understand Prop. 117, one must grasp the difference between fees and taxes. Fees are collected from users of a service to help fund that service or something related to it. Taxes are collected from residents to fund general expenses of government. A Colorado enterprise cannot receive more than 10% of its annual revenue from state or local taxes — relying primarily on fees instead.
Colorado’s public colleges and universities make up the state’s largest enterprise, one that brought in over $5 billion in revenue in 2019. Other notable enterprises include Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Lottery and Colorado Correctional Industries. If Prop. 117 passes, preexisting state enterprises would be grandfathered in without voter approval.
A “yes” vote on Prop. 117 is a vote to require voter approval of new state enterprises with an estimated fee revenue of over $100 million in the first five years. Supporters see Prop. 117 as an extension of TABOR, another way for residents to control Colorado’s fiscal policy from the ballot box.
A “no” vote on Prop. 117 is a vote to uphold the current law — to continue to allow the state legislature to create enterprises of any size. Opponents of the measure believe Prop. 117 would become a roadblock to funding public services, like K-12 schools and transportation, already limited by TABOR.
Prop. 118 asks voters whether Colorado should create a paid family and medical leave insurance program for workers. The citizen initiative would also create job protections for employees who take paid leave.
If the ballot measure passes, beginning in 2023, Colorado employees and employers would be required to pay a payroll premium (0.9% of wages split between the employee and employer) into a statewide pool administered by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. In 2024, eligible workers could begin to apply to the statewide fund to receive a percentage of their normal salary, up to $1,100 per week, for up to 12 weeks of leave.
The program would cover: caring for a family member or one’s own serious health condition, looking after a new child, assisting a family member on active duty military service, and leave for victims (or family members of victims) of domestic or sexual assault.
Businesses with less than 10 employees, local governments and employers that already offer paid leave would be able to opt out of the insurance program.
A “yes” vote on Prop. 118 is a vote to create the state-run, paid leave program for Colorado workers explained above. Supporters believe all workers deserve paid time off, and that offering such, would improve health outcomes for all Colorado families.
A “no” vote on Prop. 118 is a vote to maintain the status quo and not create the leave program. Opponents believe such a program would place an undue burden on employees and employers, during a time of financial strain, for a program individuals might never use.