Among the many ballot measures Colorado voters are currently contemplating is Proposition GG, a tax transparency ballot measure that would require all future proposed tax changes to include a simple table showing the impact on voters’ personal finances. This would allow voters to see the difference that, say, a small cut to the income tax (like the one proposed this year by Proposition 121), would make to their bottom line, which could be only a few dollars for most people making five-figure incomes, whereas the richest Coloradans would receive tens of thousands more.
The table would include eight income levels showing the average amount of taxes currently owed, the amount owed under the proposed change and the difference between the two for each level.
Boulder’s KGNU radio station covered both Prop GG in a recent segment featuring Elliot Goldbaum of the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute, and Dr. Steven Byers of the conservative Common Sense Institute, which promotes “free enterprise.”
Byers, who supports Prop 121’s across-the-board income tax cut, didn’t take an official position on Prop GG, but as someone who generally opposes taxes, he made it clear where he stands.
“I think it depends on where you stand,” said Byers. “If you’re in the camp where taxing people who make good incomes is a good thing, then you’d probably want to show these income categories. On the other hand, if you think continuing to tax is not a good thing, then you might want it to be more opaque.”
In addition to acknowledging that proponents of tax cuts for the rich are more likely to pass if voters have less information, Byers also proposed his own addition to Colorado law, and an egregiously unconstitutional one at that: a literacy test.
“Personally I think people should have to take a little test to make sure they understand what the ballot measure even says before they can vote on it,” said Byers. “I think a lot of people just see headlines like ‘Free Lunch’ [and think] ‘Oh that’s a good deal, let’s do it.'”
While the Common Sense Institute doesn’t officially take a Proposition GG, many other conservative groups publicly oppose it, including the state Republican Party, the Centennial Institute, and the Independence Institute.
The Colorado GOP’s argument against Prop GG attacks the integrity of nonpartisan state economists who evaluate proposed tax hikes or cuts, claiming that the table will be written by “potentially biased government staffers.”
You can find the Centennial and Independence Institute’s ballot guides along with many others from all political perspectives in the Colorado Times Recorder’s annual ballot guide round-up.