Deciphering the details of Amendment 78 on this year’s statewide ballot may be difficult, but the intent is easy to glean from this unneeded and cumbersome proposal.
We agree with opponents that this was pushed onto the 2021 Colorado ballot this year by the right-wing activist group, Colorado Rising State Action, for the clear purpose of trying to hamstring elected Democratic leaders.
That partisan intent and shortsightedness by this persistent political group, pumped up with political dark money, makes it easy to vote “no” on Amendment 78.
At issue are millions of dollars, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, that are either donated to or directly deposited to Colorado’s government.
Colorado officials then become “custodial” managers of these funds. If it sounds nefarious, it’s not. An example of these “custodial” funds are huge pots of cash the federal government virtually wired to Colorado to pay for things like immediately needed COVID-19 testing, unemployment benefits, and myriad other pandemic-related expenses covered by the federal CARES Act.
What Amendment 78 proponents want to do is create a new channel in state government, bringing in the state Legislature, which would then have oversight of how some, or all, of these custodial funds are spent and used. Part of the proposed process would even allow for public hearings on how state administrators would deploy such funds.
It’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons, top among them is that it would immediately slow down and complicate the use of rescue funds from the federal government and other sources when they need to immediately be deployed.
We agree that transparency at every level of government is never, ever a bad thing for democracy and in building public confidence, but this measure isn’t about transparency in spending, it’s about control.
A sticking point for some proponents of the bill are past stories revealing that Colorado governors, from both parties, have regularly accepted “donations” from outside sources, sometimes businesses, sometimes activists, sometimes schools, to fund positions inside the governor’s administration.
We agree that such hirings may save taxpayers money and even enrich the understanding of public policy in the executive branch, but this practice invites far more trouble than it could ever solve.
Amendment 78 might make those hirings more difficult, but they wouldn’t preclude them. If that’s the intent of the public, the problem needs to be addressed directly, not with a red-herring proposal like this.
If proponents are truly seeking more transparency, that’s an easy matter for the legislature to take up, delivering any number of reports and analyses on every dollar of state spending, including these custodial funds.
But in a political attempt clearly targeting Colorado’s long run on Democratic governors, Colorado Rising State Action and other proponents would unwisely hamstring a possible Republican governor as well.
Colorado’s state government is already choked with noxious and unwieldy laws and constitutional amendments, chief among them the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, adding Amendment 78 to the mix would only further slow the grinding wheels of government and needlessly chew up more public time and attention. Vote no on Amendment 78.