Opinion: Fiscal impact statements for Colorado ballot measures

From The Denver Post:  By Tamra Ward

Expanding and enhancing the information that Colorado voters are provided about ballot measures is a vital step to improve our entire ballot initiative system — and one that is long overdue. It’s essential that voters have the basic facts about how a proposal would affect their pocketbooks, and government coffers.

House Bill 1057, a proposal with strong bipartisan support, accomplishes that goal by providing clear and unbiased fiscal facts and places it on ballot petition forms for voters to consider before they sign their names.

Today, every bill that has an impact on the state budget has a “fiscal note.” And that document tells legislators exactly what the cost to the taxpayers will be. Imagine any policymaker who said, “This seems like a nice idea but I don’t want to know if the state can afford it.” It would be the height of irresponsibility, and no taxpayer would think it a good idea.

Yet consider the initiative process, and how voters can be left in the dark. We all have been approached by citizens circulating petitions to place initiatives on the ballot. Often these measures involve significant new investments by the state in key government functions, such as education or infrastructure. Moreover, the petition circulator usually has a limited amount of information available about the overall impact of the proposal. The petition form itself offers no information about the fiscal impact of the measure.

So if you want to know what the costs associated with a proposal are before you sign, good luck. Why can’t we provide Colorado voters the same fiscal information that elected officials have as they evaluate whether to put their names behind a ballot measure?

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