Colorado voters reject three ballot initiatives, including measure to create education program and raise marijuana sales tax

Three initiatives—Amendment 78, Proposition 119, and Proposition 120— were on the ballot on Nov. 2, and were rejected by voters.

Proposition 119 would have created the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program, also known as the LEAP Program, and would have increased the marijuana retail sales tax incrementally from 15% to 20% to partially fund the program. The measure was rejected by a vote of 54.5% against to 45.5% in favor.

Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids led the Yes on Prop 119 campaign. The committee reported raising $2.58 million in contributions. The top two donors were Gary Community Investment Company, which gave $1.97 million, and Ready Colorado, which gave $625,000. Three committees registered to oppose the initiative: No on Prop 119, Coloradans Against School Vouchers, and Cannabis Community for Fairness and Safety. Together, the committees reported raising $73,530 in contributions.

Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, sponsored Amendment 78 and Proposition 120. Amendment 78 was rejected by a vote of 56.5% against to 43.5% in favor. It would have transferred the power to appropriate custodial funds from the state treasurer to the state legislature. Examples of such funds include pension funds and court-approved settlement funds. The committee supporting the initiative raised $1.275 million, all given by Unite for Colorado, which describes itself as an “issue advocacy organization that believes in a smaller, more accountable government.” No committees registered to oppose the measure.

Proposition 120 was rejected by a vote of 57% against to 43% in favor. It would have reduced the residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and the non-residential property tax assessment rate from 29% to 26.4%. It would also have authorized the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) spending cap for five years, which it would otherwise be required to refund to taxpayers, to fund reimbursements to local government entities for lost revenue due to homestead exemptions given to qualifying seniors and disabled veterans. The committee supporting the measure raised $1.53 million from Unite for Colorado ($875,000), Colorado Rising State Action ($347,000), the Apartment Association of Metro Denver ($241,900), and United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc. ($52,000). No committees registered to oppose the measure.

In total, $3,329,466.92 was spent by the initiative campaigns on signature gathering for the three 2021 Colorado initiatives. Campaigns needed to submit 124,632 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The average cost-per-required-signature was $8.42.

Measures that can go on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd years are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR. The last time an initiative appeared on an odd-year ballot in Colorado was 2013. The measure, which was defeated, would have changed Colorado’s flat personal income tax rate to a graduated income rate with increased rates.