Mental Health Colorado takes positions on Nov. 3 ballot

October 2, 2020

Originally appeared in Colorado Politics

By: Joey Bunch

Mental Health Colorado made its position known on four ballot issues Friday, including support for paid family and medical leave, a tax hike on nicotine products and repealing the Gallagher Amendment, while opposing an across-the-board reduction in the the state income rate.

The advocacy organization said its positions support families by supporting the long-term health of children and young people.

Proposition 118 would provide a state-run insurance plan to ensure 12 weeks of paid leave for an illness or to take care of a loved one.

“When we think about the purpose of a human community and the aim of supporting health across the lifespan, we must acknowledge that we are living in a society where many working people have to absorb a damaging financial setback when they take time off for family or medical reasons,” Mental Health Colorado president and CEO Vincent Atchity said in a statement. “There is something inherently unhealthy and inhumane about a society that makes Coloradans choose between paying their bills and providing a strong start for their children or caring for their own or a loved one’s health.”

Proposition EE would increase the tax on nicotine products, including vaping, to raise money for education, housing and tobacco use prevention.

Amendment B would repeal the property tax equation of the voter-passed Gallagher Amendment, which drives down residential tax bills while driving up commercial property tax bills. Passage would freeze the current rates ahead of an expected drop in the statewide residential assessment rate next year.

Mental Health Colorado frets a reduction in local tax money for schools, human services and mental health programs.

“The repeal of the amendment will ensure that services and programs that are vitally important to individual and community health and well-being can remain in place and effective,” the organization stated.

Similarly, Proposition 116 would lower the state’s flat income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%, which Mental Health Colorado said would further strain mental health and substance use care.

“The mental health needs of Coloradans are dire,” Atchity said. “Even as we constantly hear about Colorado’s great economy and business growth, our state consistently ranks in the bottom third of the nation in terms of the magnitude of our health needs and the difficulties we too often face in accessing quality care.

“For healthier minds across the lifespan for all Coloradans, and to help our communities and the economy realize their fullest potential, it never makes sense to lower taxes. What would make a lot of sense — and would be a real indication of collective health of mind — would be to replace our flat rate with a progressive rate, and to close loopholes so that individuals and corporations who can afford to pay more taxes are held accountable for contributing meaningfully and proportionally to the common good of the community of consumers and workers that makes wealth possible.”