Today we offer our first ballot endorsement — on the statewide Proposition DD — with more to come this week as ballots begin to hit mailboxes in the Grand Valley.
Of the two statewide issues on the ballot, Prop DD is the one less likely to give voters heartburn. It asks a relatively simple question: Should sports betting be legalized and taxed with the vast majority of the proceeds going to fund water projects in the state?
The other, Proposition CC, tinkers with the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which always stirs controversy. But water is a unifying issue in this state. Most voters recognize the critical role it plays in the state's future. With Colorado's population expected to double in 40 years, it's important to figure out how the state's water supply will accommodate growth and be plentiful enough to serve the state's agricultural interests.
Proposition DD is modeled after the Colorado Lottery, which funds Colorado's parks and open spaces through Great Outdoors Colorado.
Proposition DD wouldn't fund the state's water plan in its entirety. But it would provide an important down payment for water projects statewide that support water conservation, river health, agriculture and more. These projects are critical to begin addressing the gap between water supply and demand in the face of a growing population and climate change.
Prop DD was referred to the ballot by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature. It enjoys bipartisan support because conserving and protecting water is a nonpartisan issue. Likewise, a coalition of environmental and sportsmen groups have endorsed the measure.
None of this matters, of course, to those opposed to gambling on moral grounds. But voting down Prop DD doesn't change the fact that black-market sports betting takes place all the time in Colorado. Legalizing sports betting would at least direct the enterprise toward some good things — including a projected $130,000 a year for gambling addiction services.
It would also generate around $1 million for a "hold harmless" fund for entities that receive tax revenue from traditional limited-stakes gambling and horse racing. These include casino cities and counties, community colleges and the State Historical Fund. If they can prove they lost money due to a decrease in the amount bet on traditional gambling and horse racing following the legalization of sports betting, they can apply for funding from the hold harmless fund.
But the vast majority of the 10% tax to be paid by Colorado casinos on their sports betting profits will generate revenues for water projects. That should be around $16 million a year for the first five years — a decent sum to begin making inroads on the state water plan.