Blank check spending doesn’t belong in Constitution

This election, voters will decide whether to pass Amendment 72, a poorly-drafted measure that would lock $315 million in new spending into the Colorado Constitution. This measure would harm local businesses while dedicating less than 20 percent to helping those who want to stop smoking.

With this risk to our economy, what does our community get in return? Blank check spending and blurry promises.

The truth about Amendment 72 is that Coloradans do not really know how the money will be spent. Here is what we do know.

This measure locks millions of dollars in new spending into the Colorado Constitution with no way to change it without another statewide vote, even in the case of waste, fraud, abuse, or budget emergency. The way this measure is written offers little accountability to taxpayers and no oversight. Most of the revenue generated by this tax is dedicated to programs that have not yet been determined. In fact, 51 percent of the new tax dollars fund grant awards where guidelines aren’t even written yet.

Voters deserve to know exactly how the money will be spent and that it will not be wasted. Amendment 72 offers no such guarantees.

Instead, Amendment 72 creates conflict of interest concerns. The measure calls for state agencies to distribute grants — will they go to bureaucrats’ pet projects? It’s a possibility since one agency that would be responsible for awarding grants was recently cited by the state auditor as needing stronger conflict of interest policies.

For example, the same special interests that will likely benefit from this tax increase are using the initiative process to lock in grant spending for programs that haven’t been created yet.

Even with all of these concerns, this measure would dedicate less than 20 percent of new tax dollars to smoking prevention.

If Colorado wants to get serious about helping people who want to stop smoking or preventing kids from starting, the state should spend the tobacco money it already receives on smoking prevention and cessation.

Even worse, Amendment 72 would hamstring local businesses and could weaken economic growth by suppressing consumer spending, straining household budgets, and reducing retail sales.

This measure would do too little to help Coloradans and could compromise any city’s economic growth. Voters should reject Amendment 72 because it’s simply bad for business and does not belong in Colorado’s Constitution.

Ray Scott, a Republican, represents Mesa County in the Colorado state Senate.


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