I suspect you will not be surprised to learn that disability issues are a central consideration when I go to vote. But I am far from alone. Registered voters with disabilities and their families make up 28.9% of American voters.
According to a new report by Rutgers University Program for Disability Research, 38.2 million registered voters have disabilities. This is an increase of 19% since 2008 (compared with a 12% increase among voters without disabilities). Topics of importance to these voters (such as health care and employment) will likely be crucial to the success of many candidates. Candidates are learning to include a disability platform in their campaigns.
But voters face decisions beyond candidates this season. The November ballot for Colorado includes several ballot measures people with disabilities and their allies should know and understand.
Amendment B would repeal the Gallagher Amendment. A vote for this repeal allows residential tax rates to stay at their current rate, rather than decreasing as Gallagher requires. Maintaining the current tax rate is important for counties and special tax districts (such as police and fire protection) to have stable revenue. This is an important issue for people with disabilities because less revenue would impact transportation, education and other services that are essential for people with (and without) disabilities to be involved in their communities.
Proposition EE and Proposition 116 are both important for people with disabilities because of their impact on the state budget. Many essential services to children and adults with disabilities are partially or fully funded by the state of Colorado. Because of the economic impacts of the pandemic, Colorado’s revenue (i.e., what the state can spend on things) is far less than needed to sustain all state programs. Without enough money, services to people with disabilities will suffer.
If Proposition EE passes, it will bring new revenue to Colorado in the form of a tax on vaping and other nicotine products. This new revenue would help fill the budget hole left by COVID-19.
On the other hand, if Proposition 116 passes, it would reduce the amount of taxes each Coloradan pays. That would make the difference between the revenue collected and the state expenses even greater. The bigger that difference, the more likely it is that important disability-related programs will be cut.
No matter how you plan to vote on ballot measures, it is crucial that we are all informed about the issues. Colorado makes this easy through the “Blue Book” of ballot information. You should have received a blue book at your home, but you can also access it at https://leg.colorado.gov/bluebook or type “Colorado Blue Book” in your search engine. Both audio and Spanish versions of the Blue Book are available.
The state of Colorado also makes it easy to vote. You should receive your ballot in the mail between Oct. 9 and Oct. 16. Contact your county to find easy locations to drop off your completed ballot. Get informed and make your voice count!
Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.