Amendment 51 – Increased Funding for the Disabled

A targeted sales tax increase to provide targeted funding for persons with developmental disabilities. In addition, it prohibits reductions in the level of state appropriations in the annual general appropriations bill existing on the effective date of this measure for long-term services for persons with developmental disabilities.

Further info at Colorado Ballot – The State Sales Tax for Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilites

Arguments Against

Raising sales taxes will hurt the state’s economy and citizens. The economy is already struggling with a weak housing market and high gas and food prices. Further, raising sales taxes burdens lower- and middle-income consumers the most because it cuts into a larger share of their income.

The state government already spends about $4 billion, or about 30 percent of state and federal operating dollars, to provide health-care-related services, and this spending grows every year. The measure takes an additional $186 million out of the private economy to expand the size and cost of government.

Decisions about how to spend state tax dollars are best made through an open and deliberative process that considers the needs and priorities of the entire state. Amendment 51 permanently raises taxes without any discussion about whether the measure raises an appropriate amount of money, how the new money can be spent most effectively, or how the needs of people with developmental disabilities compare with other needs in the state.

The new money must be spent on services for people with developmental disabilities even if the amount raised exceeds what is legitimately needed to provide services, which could lead to wasteful spending while other needs remain under-funded.

Arguments For

Many children and adults with developmental disabilities – and the families who care for them – are at the point of crisis because they cannot get needed services. No alternative public sector safety net exists to provide care for them. The demand for services continues to grow because people with developmental disabilities are vulnerable and often need life-long care, and there are many aging parents who can no longer care for their children with developmental disabilities.

Vote NO! Vote No

This is one small special interest group attempting to set their funding in the at a level they want to see. If this passes we will see 40 groups each with their own initiative in the next election.

It doesn’t matter how righteous this request is, funding sources and levels are the responsibility of the legislature where they have to make the hard trade-offs between a never ending list of critical needs vs a limited amount of money. Allowing special interest groups to do an end-run around these trade-offs with feel-good legislation is a recipe for fiscal disaster.


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On Amendment 51 I am voting

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42 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Sir Robin says:

    There are between 250-350 individuals who might be forced out of assisted living facilities that have a major mental illness diagnosis on January 1, because CMS is withdrawing their 50% contribution (approximately $10M) from the HCBS waiver. Where will these individuals go? No one knows at this point, and there’s precious little time left.

    In addition, this holds the potential to close down small businesses who are in business to serve a disabled class of people.

    Wrap these folks into the bill.

    • Cartesian Doubt says:

      Any increase in taxes should go to the largest group possible. If you can fund programs for mental health and the disabled, two groups woefully underfunded throughout the country, I would support the amendment more.

      As it stands, I would need more information about exactly who’s being funded. As my nephew has severe physical and learning disablilities, I would like to see the programs that help him better funded.  

  2. Bondo says:

    Part of me thinks there is a benefit to completely destroying our Constitution/state government through the initiative process because only that will convince them to launch a constitutional convention to clean the mess up and largely do away with the initiative process. Thus, things that seem “decent enough” but probably shouldn’t be voted on in this manner get the benefit of the doubt.

  3. redstateblues says:

    A ballot initiative whose title is not the opposite of what its effects would actually be.

  4. BlueCat says:

    While I recognize that no family, no matter how self-reliant or responsible, can bear the crushing burden of caring for the seriously disabled I am against using the constitution to address issues that ought to be addressed via legislation and that set in stone more and more constrictions and mandates that handcuff our elected representatives in the legislature.  

    In general, I vote no unless I think an amendment deals with something that ought to be removed from the majority rule legislative process, such as basic rights, or with broad procedural issues such as what the structure of the state government ought to be.

    Sometimes I vote yes on an amendment that defends against a competing bad amendment but wish the rules would be changed to make that necessary less often.

    Will be interested in what people here, especially those with more knowledge about the issues surrounding this amendment, have to say to say about this one.  

    • Dan Willis says:

      It is a statutory change which can be simply altered by the legislature at some future time when the tax is not as needed.

      • BlueCat says:

        but I don’t quite understand.  Could you explain to me how it can be an amendment but not constitutional? Thanks.

        • RedGreen says:


          … etc.

          There might also be a TABOR requirement that it be presented as an amendment because it proposes new tax and spending, not sure.

  5. Dan Willis says:

    While I understand the concern about being hit with funding requests for every “special interest” group out there, I am resigned to that being the case. I prefer to get these requests one at a time and to determine their value based on their own merits.

    The waitlist for people with developmental disabilities (PDD’s) to receive much needed services is now longer than many of them will live. Without a secure line of additional income, the state has no hope of catching up the back log, even if the economy were booming, and even if Amend. 59 passes.

    This additional “earmarked” revenue is needed if there is to be any hope of providing basic living needs for PDD’s such as food and food preparation, places to live, etc. Many of these folks are so severly disable they are not able to even dress themselves or go to the bathroom on their own.

    And one more point to keep in mind: this is NOT a constitutional amendment. If this state gets to the point we can adequately fund services for these folks without the additional revenue, the legislature will be able to reduce or elimiae it at that time without requiring another vote by us.

    One way or the other the funding for this need has to be filled and, under our present financial situtation, the only option is an additional tax source of some kind which the people will have to vote on.

    So I say vote YES and know everytime you spend $10, you’ve given your two cents for those who can not care for themselves.

    • Middle of the Road says:

      Works for me.  

    • DavidThi808 says:

      …you’re going to face 20 more proposals like this that are equally worthy and equally heartbreaking. The legislature has to work through the trade-offs of crying need vs limited funds every year.

      Why does this one case get a pass?

      • RedGreen says:

        without TABOR, your question would be more meaningful. As it is, taxpayers are empowered with deciding whether to increase taxes to fund programs that aren’t adequately funded when the legislature divides the strictly limited pie. TABOR rests the decision to expand the pie with voters, not legislators. If you want to fix the system entirely, and return to the purely legislative pie-slicing you describe, repeal TABOR. Until then, we do what we can.

      • Dabee47 says:

        Because they got it on the ballot.

        When the legislature doesn’t take care of something and groups like this get an issue on the ballot, you can’t turn around and say this is an issue for the legislature to deal with.  They had a chance, and, in the opinion of those of us who support this, they failed.  If you disagree vote No; but don’t act like we should wait on the legislature…again…

        When 2010 rolls around, you decide what you think deserves a YES and what deserves a NO.  It doesn’t matter if there is 1 ballot item or 20, you still decided how “worthy” they are on a case by case basis.

    • Cartesian Doubt says:

      Explaining that this isn’t constitutional should go a long way to getting this more support. Paying a few cents more to help others won’t break anyone’s wallets.

      My nephew, who I wrote about above, has severe learning disabilities and was diagnosed with mental retardation, among other health issues he lives with.

      It breaks my heart and infuriates me that he can’t get the help he’ll need down the road.

      There are far too many who don’t have the assistance they need, and they can’t speak loud enough for the ones who hold the purse strings to hear. Education and care of those who can’t care for themselves is indefensibly low.

    • Mr. Toodles says:

      I havent had a chance to peruse all the amendments yet, but your analysis works for me. Yes on 51 for me.

  6. parsingreality says:

    We need to give our tax money to billionaires on Wall Street.  Have you no compassion?  

  7. RedGreen says:

    the size of the proposed sales and use tax increase. It’s a 1/10th of 1 percent bump for the first year — the same as metro Denver residents pay for the voter-approved Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (the polar bear) — and the same amount the second year.

    From the Legislature’s proposed Blue Book summary:

    Impact on taxpayers.

    Both individuals and businesses pay sales and use taxes. Businesses pay about 40 percent of the state’s sales taxes;  Colorado residents pay about half; and the remaining amount is paid by visitors to the state.  The additional amount of taxes paid by each Colorado household will depend on a household’s income and number of people.  A three-person household with around $55,000 in annual income is estimated to pay an additional $20 in state sales taxes in the first year of the tax increase and an additional $40 in the second year when the tax increase is fully in place.

  8. Arvadonian says:

    The fact that, as David accurately points out, there are a number of groups who are in need of assistance does not negate the fact that those with developmental disabilities (and their families) are in need also.

    If we can bail out Wall Street, who got themselves into this mess, then we can bail out those who are in a mess through no fault of their own.

    • RedGreen says:

      We can decide to ante up another penny on five dollar purchases to pay for it and do it up front, rather than borrowing the money from China and expecting our grandchildren to pay for it.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      Where do you draw the line? We’ll have requests to provide medical care for those that will otherwise die, to provide counseling for those that will otherwise kill themselves, to provide better protection for women that will otherwise be raped.

      All of these very worthwhile needs, all will tug at the heartstrings, and all just as worthy. Where does it end.

      Let’s look at how the system works. There has been a number of families who for years wanted cold case murders funded. The odds of success are low and it’s not the best way to fight crime. But it’s important because it lets the family members know that the person they lost does matter.

      And so for years funding this has been pushed and lobbied and proposed. And this past year it was funded. By the legislature. Through the normal process where all requests were balanced out and this was given some money.

      No system is perfect. No one is going to agree with how everything is balanced out. But if we remove this from the legislature and instead move it to everyone going the initiative route, we’re going to end up with a boatload of specific items each with their own funding.

      And I can promise you one thing when that happens – by definition the money will be inefficiently allocated. And everything else, which includes things like education and general health care – will be hurt more.

      For all of you that are parents, many times you have to do what is responsible with your children even if it’s not popular, even if you feel bad about it. Same with voting. Taking the Dr. Feelgood route may feel better when casting the ballot, but it’s bad for the health of our state.

      • sxp151 says:

        It’s an easy way to fund only popular programs. Lots of essential stuff that government funds wouldn’t actually win a direct ballot vote.

        It’s most notable to me in higher education funding, where everyone always wants to fund scholarships but nobody ever wants to fund daily expenses and other such drudgery. So tuition has to go up to fund that stuff, and the extra money for scholarships can easily end up being canceled out by higher bills for students.

      • Arvadonian says:

        based on my values…sort of like budgeting.

        Look, I don’t particularly care for budget stuff being on the ballot in the first place.  I’ve said before, I don’t particularly care for the whole “initiative process”.  That is what the State Legislature is supposed to be for–and if the legislature is going to leave tough choices to the voting public, why do we need them?  

        But if they ask my opinion, I’m going to give it.  This is a worthy cause…these programs are woefully underfunded in Colorado when compared to other states (I know from people who work in the field of MR/DD and having worked in the field myself).

      • WorkerB says:

        David… Your closing quote, ‘remember- friends don’t let friends vote Republican.’ says to me you are a Democrat.

        The above quote, from the late Democratic Senator, Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, sums up my perspective of what being a Democrat is all about.

        That we have a responsible opportunity to help others do better when our legislature will not, is what democracy is all about.

        All in favor of 51, say ‘Aye!’

  9. abraham says:

    I wish we were in a public finance arrangement where revenues and expenditures could be prioritized, but that world went away about 20 years ago.  In many ways this measure is the natural evolution of TABOR, and I suspect that we will see many more similar efforts for water, highways, social needs and so on.  

    Perhaps this measure can be justified on two grounds.  First, the care for this population transcends both fiscal years and the political composition of the Capitol.  Long term needs warrant long term and stable revenue streams.

    Secondly, the families facing these hard circumstances can become quite fragile and can disintegrate.  Perhaps it is in the best interests of society to help keep the family intact.

  10. davebarnes says:

    That is why we have a REPRESENTATIVE legislature. To set spending priorities.

    I hate putting spending rules into the Constitution of the State of Colorado.

    Besides, does the word “fungible” mean anything to these retards?

  11. Ralphie says:

    It gets an automatic NO from me.

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