Opinion: Proposition 117 is bad for Colorado’s health

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Published Friday, October 30, 2020
by Rep. Julie McCluskie

Ballot questions are sometimes very straightforward while others tend to be ripe with complex policy changes and negative outcomes. Proposition 117 is the latter. My time serving House District 61 in Summit County and tackling the high cost of health care in Colorado has taught me that the most minute of details often have the greatest impact -- sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. Passing Proposition 117 could mean devastating health insurance hikes for hardworking Coloradans across the state, and it's intentionally written in the small print. 

A Little Background 

You may be familiar with the Colorado TABOR Amendment. It stands for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. It's a constitutional amendment that passed in 1992. Among other things, it requires a vote of the people to approve any increase in taxes. This is why you vote regularly to secure new or additional funding (taxes) for schools, libraries, mental health services, tobacco cessation and prevention and more. Proposition 117 is trying to change the original intention of TABOR that passed with a majority of support and allows the state to find new revenue sources for important services.

The TABOR Amendment intentionally excluded enterprises from the spending limit as a path for the state to build new, self-sustaining revenue streams for programs and services without increasing taxes. It's a win, win for everyone. These enterprises are required to be financially independent of the government. The fees collected through the enterprise are not paid through taxes, instead only by people who use the service. Examples include the Parks and Recreation Department, higher education institutions, oil and gas storage, and the Division of Wildlife. If Proposition 117 passed, these entities may have to spend a significant amount of resources going to the ballot to fund additional or new programs and services. This will prevent Colorado from offering the services that we as Coloradans depend on and love. 

How Can This Affect Your Health? 

This past legislative session, I sponsored and passed a first-of-its-kind health care affordability bill (SB20-215) that will maintain the successful Reinsurance program that reduced insurance premiums statewide by 20%. Additionally, the bill will use additional funding from an existing fee to help families, including those who don't qualify for a subsidy on the exchange, to purchase cheaper health coverage. This program has been made possible through the creation of an enterprise that will ensure health insurance costs remain low. Proposition 117 wants to virtually eliminate the existence of these enterprises, like the one we created to lower insurance premiums. We cannot dismantle years of bipartisan progress towards lowering health care costs for all Coloradans, especially those living on the Western Slope.

The language in Proposition 117 is not clear and we are left wondering if the passage of Proposition 117 threatens this enterprise. Not only is it unclear if Proposition 117 would require our already limited resources go toward obtaining voter approval, but provisions in the language require that "like-minded" enterprises get grouped together to assess the arbitrary revenue cap set forth in the initiative. Can you imagine if Colorado grouped like-minded small businesses together and then required a vote of the people to approve their profit margins? I assume that sounds ridiculous to you as well. 

We cannot cut off innovation and tie the hands of Coloradans who are seeking to solve pressing issues through this sustainable, revenue generating option that was purposefully allowed in the original TABOR Amendment. Vote NO on Proposition 117! Let's not "fix" something that isn't broken. We cannot threaten to take affordable health care away from thousands of Coloradans.

Colorado State Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, serves House District 61 in Summit County.

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