Western Slope voters learning issues

Bell Policy Center President Wade Buchanan is spending less time this election reviewing “the basics” with voters than he has previous years while traveling around the state for his presentations about the ballot.

Buchanan and Abigail Hinga, director of outreach for Bell Policy Center, are talking to voters around the state and stopped Thursday morning at Mesa State College. Turnouts have been small, Buchanan said, but he has noticed the level of voters’ understanding, particularly on the Western Slope, has increased significantly over the past five years, even in a year such as this with an abnormally long ballot.

“Here on the Western Slope, and throughout the state as well, people can put this on tangible levels,”
Buchanan said of the ballot measures. “These aren’t multimillion-dollar abstractions. It’s a community college. It’s a school.”

In 2003, Buchanan said, discussions with voters were centered much more on basic education about Colorado’s tax and government structure. The implications of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, for example, Hinga said, “threw people off-guard.”

Buchanan said people remember the state budget cuts to education during the earlier part of the decade and what those meant to neighbors and family affected by them.

“People understand the importance of Mesa State, for example,” he said. “Everyone here probably knows someone who works there or graduated from there.”

Education-related measures abound on this year’s ballot, and Buchanan said Bell has made Amendment 59 its “top priority.”

Amendment 59 permanently eliminates the state’s revenue caps and funnels the money into an education savings fund. The measure also eliminates Colorado’s constitutional obligation to increase its K-12 spending every year.

Buchanan said the savings set aside for education funding that the amendment creates will be the state’s safety net when the next economic downturn hits.

“I think of it as good, sound-minded fiscal planning,” he said. “It’s logical budgeting. Every business does that, and every family tries to do that.”

Opponents to the amendment, however, argue that eliminating revenue caps will encourage higher state spending.

Barry Poulson, with the Independence Institute, said a down-turning economy would lead the state to turn to tax increases and debt to cover the increased spending.


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