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State treasurer warns of fiscal dangers in Amendment 69

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Walter Stapleton, Colorado state treasurer, met with a small group of business people Monday, July 18, to discuss the fiscal dangers in passing Amendment 69 in the Nov. 8 election.

The luncheon meeting was sponsored by the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce and held at the Delta United Methodist fellowship hall.

Stapleton has been travelling the state to speak about Amendment 69 and has heard from all audiences' concerns about unfunded mandates from the state, plus the fiscal problems connected with the expansion of Medicaid with no way to pay for the expansion.

He now also discusses the effects Amendment 69's passing would add to those fiscal concerns.

Stapleton said that, as state treasurer, a major part of his responsibilities is attention to the fiscal and economic condition of the state. If passed by the voters, the provisions of Amendment 69 will have a great negative impact on the state's fiscal and economic health, as well as impacting individual residents fiscally.

If passed, Amendment 69 -- creating a governmental entity called ColoradoCare to administer the health care payment system -- would amend the Colorado Constitution. It would not be a legislative issue to which the Colorado Legislature could make amendments as needed.

Amendment 69 has been described by some as "free health care," Stapleton said.

Stapleton acknowledged the problems with Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, saying, "The exchange was intended to be self-sustaining, and it is anything but, and we have blown through federal dollars.

"United Health and other insurers are leaving the exchange. We have one-fifth the enrollment anticipated and consumers have 40 percent less choice than anticipated.

"The exchange is in a hole and we have not yet come up with a way to fix it," he said.

Stapleton said an audit of the status quo of the exchange will enable the state to determine where the exchange is efficient and make this the "test pilot" to apply to the remainder of the functions of the exchange to make them efficient.

He set out specific dangers in Amendment 69.

"If the amendment passes, it authorizes state taxes be increased $25 billion annually in the first full fiscal year, and by such amounts that are raised thereafter."

ColoradoCare would be exempt from Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR).

"We would have the highest income taxes in the nation, a 1 percent payroll tax for every employer in Colorado," Stapleton said.

"The employer would pay 6.7 percent and the employee 3.3 percent. If the taxpayer is self-employed, they would pay both, the total 10 percent."

In response to questions from the audience, Stapleton confirmed, "Investment income is subject to this tax. If the employer is outside the state, and therefore the tax does not apply for the employer's 6.7 percent, the employee pays the full 10 percent. Telecommuters would self pay.

"It is possible retirement income would be taxed," he said.

In addition, Stapleton pointed out, Amendment 69 provides for increasing these tax rates when ColoradoCare begins making health care payments for beneficiaries.

Also of great concern to Stapleton are these provisions in Amendment 69:

• Transferring administration of the Medicaid and children's basic health programs and all other state and federal health care funds for Colorado to ColaradoCare;

• Transferring responsibility to ColoradoCare for medical care that would otherwise be paid for by workers' compensation insurance;

• Requiring ColoradoCare to apply for a waiver from the Affordable Care Act to establish a Colorado health care system;

• And suspending the operation of the Colorado health benefit exchange and transferring its resources to Colorado Care.

Stapleton stated that Amendment 69's ColoradoCare would be governed by an interim board of trustees until an elected board of trustees takes responsibility.

How the candidate trustees will be determined is not set forth in the amendment language. Michael Fortney, partner in Clear Creek Strategies and who works with Stapleton, said the 21 members of the trustee board might be elected from Medicaid districts rather than from congressional districts.

Asked where Amendment 69 came from, Stapleton said it is proposed by a state senator from Boulder and supported by progressive doctors in Boulder.

Those attending asked what they could do to prevent Amendment 69 from passing.

"Tell your friends and neighbors, sign up on the email list, write letters to the editor. Tell your neighbors and tell everyone this is not free health care," Stapleton said.

Josh Applegate said the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce will be considering Amendment 69 and will take a position after that consideration.

The chamber's email address is director@deltacolorado.org.

Further information on Amendment 69 is available at coloradansforcoloradans.com.

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