Oct 28, 2021 - Politics

1-minute ballot guide: Amendment 78 puts new guardrails on spending

Illustration of the Colorado flag with a checkmark and box instead of a C and the sun.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Each year, Colorado lawmakers decide how to spend billions of dollars as part of the state budget.

  • Billions more flow outside the process with less oversight.

Amendment 78 would end that practice and require all money received by the state to get appropriated by the General Assembly.

  • The measure needs 55% approval for passage because it changes the state constitution.

How it would work: The new requirement would apply to money that comes from other sources. This consists of:

  • Federal dollars appropriated through Congress
  • Grants and donations to particular programs
  • Legal settlements received by the state

Of note: The state estimates the total of these "custodial funds" at $21.4 billion.

  • The vague nature of the ballot measure means even more money could be subject to the new rule, including revenues from college campus sports venues.

In favor: Supporters — primarily Colorado Rising Action, a conservative group that doesn't disclose its donors — argue the measure is about transparency, pointing to private dollars that flow to the governor's office for pet projects and others who funneled money to campaign donors.

  • "We thought it was important enough to know how money is being spent," said the group's director, Michael Fields.

In opposition: The measure would give Colorado legislative budget writers more authority. But state Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, says it's unnecessary. He noted budget writers review how the funds are spent and could demand changes if desired.

  • "It's essentially a partisan attack by right wing donors that is a solution in search of a problem," he says.

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