Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ballot Issues

I'll be voting any day now (hopefully before election day), so the other day I sat down with the government-provided booklet that is mailed to voters describing the various ballot measures I get to vote on, and giving recommendations on retention of judges. (Surprisingly, one of the judges was strongly recommended NOT to be retained. That was fun reading.)

One proposition I get to vote on, Amendment 48, would alter the Colorado Constitution to define the word "person" to include fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. Obviously I will be voting no on that.

A lot of the other measures have a deep similarity based on the TABOR bill that is active here. That stands for "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" and it says that, basically, the state government is not allowed to grow by more than inflation, and any extra tax money collected has to be refunded every year.* Any spending that wants to be exempt from TABOR has to be approved specially by voters.

So we get a million of those every election cycle.

For instance, Amendment 50 would allow the cities in which gambling is allowed to vote to extend the hours and/or the types of games that are allowed and, if they do so, the extra money collected would be allocated 22% to those cities and 78% to community colleges, and it would be exempt from TABOR. It is being billed as a way to increase funding for our community colleges "without a tax increase." Of course, the money for this does in fact come from additional taxes (it's not free money from heaven), but I suppose it's not an increase in the rate of a tax.

Or there is Amendment 59, which ballotpedia says "would create a state education fund savings account within the state education fund, to be funded from 10% of the monies deposited into the state education fund, including revenue that would otherwise be rebated under the TABOR rules, which the measure calls for diverting to the state education fund; would also require that state educational spending increase by rate of inflation plus 1% through fiscal year 2010-2011; and restricts spending of the state education fund to specific education expenses ."

I honestly don't know how to vote on these things. I mean, if they had one that said senior citizens would be charged extra for eyeglasses and that money would be allocated to a special fund to provide extra pet waste collection bags in city parks, exempt from TABOR, I would vote no. But I don't intrinsically object (in the case of Amendment 50) to longer gambling hours, local control, or funding community colleges. Except that all of these different bills make it impossible for someone (the legislature, I suppose) to sit down and figure out the state budget in a rational manner. I don't want all kinds of unnecessary money (which is, again, not free money from heaven) overfunding a bunch of pet projects.

Should I abstain from voting on things I'm not sure about, allowing those who feel more strongly to control the outcomes, or should I guess that my own guesses or gut feelings are better than (or at least equal to) the firmly held opinions of people who might be simple-minded morons or ideologically opposed to me? Or should I vote "no" on things I'm not sure of, out of some general conservative instinct? (Or, as my mother once told me, "yes" because "if someone thinks it's a good idea, it probably is.") I feel an internal pressure to vote on every issue.

As far as the Presidential race goes, I am unequivocally in favor of Obama. On social issues, which are important to me, I am firmly liberal, and the Republicans of the past 8 years have done nothing to shrink the size of government (quite the opposite), which is the only thing I might (might) favor about them. They've ramped up federal spending crazily and at least Bush and Cheney have fought for (I can't even say "argued for" since they have hardly bothered to inform the rest of us) untrammeled executive power completely out of line with what the Constitution actually says. McCain was my favorite Republican in the primaries, but I haven't liked much that I've seen since. And his completely cynical and insulting choice of Sarah Palin, who started off seeming underqualified and is now shown to be incapable-of-becoming-qualified (IMO) for VP...well, it doesn't help. And, outside of his trade protectionism, I see nothing to dislike in Obama.

I'm looking forward to watching the results Nov 4.

(*Disclaimer for this whole post - I am not an expert on Colorado law and have not done extra research to ensure accuracy. If you are seriously concerned about the specifics of anything you read here, please do your own research. I am quite likely simplifying or outright wrongifying some of it.)

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