As an Aurora City Councilwoman, I know Colorado families have pressing needs as they begin to financially recover from COVID-19 hardships and adjust to the new “normal” this pandemic has brought. For that reason, I am encouraging voters no vote on Proposition EE, a $294 million tax increase.
We have pressing needs here in Aurora. For example, small businesses continue to recoup from the statewide lockdown, which forced many small businesses to close their doors for good. Restaurants continue to adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions and expanded their outdoor seating, but winter is coming, and restaurants have to find ways to serve customers amid the cold and snow. And the list goes on.
Not one dime of Proposition EE helps funding critical needs like these, nor others needs that Coloradans are facing. Even worse, the supporters of this ballot initiative claim that the tax revenues will go to preschool education even though there is nothing in Proposition EE that requires that the Colorado Legislature spend funds obtained from this tax on preschool. All revenues generated by EE, if passed, will go directly to the General Fund and preschool education will not receive any funding for at least two-and-a-half years, if ever.
Aurora voters deserve to know which programs this ballot initiative will fund and that the money will serve as a slush fund. Unfortunately, Proposition EE offers no guarantees. In fact, there is little-to-no accountability and virtually no oversight for the hundreds of millions in constitutionally-mandated spending. This form of “tax and spend” must end as we cannot afford to give the Legislature a blank check to spend on unidentified projects.
About four years ago, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went through six months of chemotherapy. As you can imagine, it was a frightening diagnosis with an exhausting treatment. Fortunately, I beat the cancer and was officially in remission in July 2016. Like numerous other cancer survivors, I am passionate about mitigating the risks for others who fall victim to cancer. Unfortunately, Proposition EE is not the approach to aid smokers in their cessation.
If the goal of Prop. EE is to reduce smoking, the revenue collected from Prop. EE, if passed, must go to tobacco cessation. However, a very small amount of the revenue collected will go toward tobacco cessation.
Furthermore, if Colorado Legislators want to raise taxes by $294 million, it should be done without rushed public policy and with broader and public debates. HB20-1427, the bill that placed Proposition EE on the ballot, was hastily introduced to the Legislature, reviewed only for 20 minutes, and heard from only two witnesses. Additionally, the 43-page proposal passed with 72 hours remaining of Colorado’s 2020 legislative session. Even lawmakers did not have a copy of the measure before its initial committee hearing started.
If Colorado is going to increase taxes, legislators should not use backroom deals leading to unfair, and unbalanced legislation. I have seen the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on small businesses and families in Aurora and a $294 million in additional taxes is not what Coloradans need right now. Furthermore, we need language in the proposed ballot measure that ensures the new tax money will be accounted for. Blank-check spending does not aid our residents.
Coloradans deserve better. Join me in voting “NO” on Proposition EE.
Francoise Bergan is the council representative for Aurora’s Ward 6.