Boulder Chamber takes positions on ballot measures

The list of issues on the election ballot this year is about as long as my typical BizWest column, though not nearly as interesting (eye roll permissible).  As we will soon receive our 2016 election ballots in the mail, I offer some perspective from the Boulder Chamber on a few most broadly impactful initiatives.  This perspective isn’t just my own — it’s a synthesis of insights from meetings with ballot-initiative proponents and opponents, along with serious consideration by both our public policy committee and board of directors. 

I open by noting that Boulder business leaders tend to reflect the broad spectrum of interests across our community.  That’s not so surprising, as we live here, too, and share an appreciation for the balance of assets — social, environmental and economic — that makes this such a special place to live and build a business.  Further, while generally being fiscally conservative, we also know it sometimes takes an investment of hard-earned capital to build a stronger foundation for future success.

Boulder Valley School District mill-levy increase

Take the Boulder Valley School District’s request for a mill levy increase, for example.  The initial ask is for $10 million to help cover the cost of certain infrastructure expenses that otherwise take dollars from the classroom.  The actual ballot language gives the school board authorization to increase the mill levy to a rate that could add up to $26 million to District coffers.  That’s really what we’re voting on.

Still, the Boulder Chamber’s policy leaders unanimously support Ballot Measure 3A.  One of the best investments we can make in our economy is the strength of our education system.  It helps prepare our future workforce and attracts top outside talent and businesses to our community.  This is not an area to skimp.  At the same time, we appeal to the Boulder Valley School Board to be judicious — consulting with the community — before taking aim at the future authorized revenue over the initial $10 million balance.

Boulder County open space and sustainability taxes

If you don’t appreciate the benefits that open-space investments create for our community, then stop reading this paragraph and spend a little more time outside the office.  In short, one of Boulder County’s open-space taxes is set to expire, and the county commissioners have determined that they can meet future protection and maintenance goals at half the current tax rate.  Such fiscal restraint is refreshing, and that is why the Boulder Chamber gives strong support for Ballot Question 1B, sustaining a lower-level investment in this valuable community asset. 

Conversely, the Boulder Chamber is taking a neutral position on the proposal in Ballot Question 1C to use the other half of the expiring open-space tax for sustainability programming.  We certainly recognize the value of programs that will make our county more resilient in the face of environmental threats.  It also is clear that Investments in clean energy and efficiency can offer significant business savings.  In line with our generally fiscal conservative principles, though, we would have preferred more specificity in the planned allocation of the Sustainability Tax resources as assurance that they will be used effectively.  In the face of these competing values, the Boulder Chamber encourages voters to make their own call on this sales-tax extension.

Statewide minimum-wage increase

Finally, there’s the very hot potato of Amendment 70 and the proposed minimum-wage increase.  I’ll start by noting that many of my business colleagues either have a strong principled argument against government interference in setting employment wages or are legitimately concerned about direct negative impacts to their operations and the economy.  Further, let’s not kid ourselves — raising the minimum wage from $8.31 to $12 over the next four years will not make it that much easier for our service workforce to live in Boulder. 

That said, growing income inequality and the challenge of keeping working citizens out of poverty are both social and economic issues of great concern.  Federal Reserve system president Janet Yellen went as far as to declare it appropriate to ask if the widening inequality trend “is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.” The minimum wage is one mechanism for addressing these issues, which is why, in a close call for our organization, the Boulder Chamber stands in support of the proposed statewide increase. 

So that’s where the Boulder Chamber landed, but regardless of where you stand on these and other 2017 ballot issues … please vote by Nov. 8.

John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber. He can be reached at 303-442-1058 or via email at john.tayer@boulderchamber.com.

The list of issues on the election ballot this year is about as long as my typical BizWest column, though not nearly as interesting (eye roll permissible).  As we will soon receive our 2016 election ballots in the mail, I offer some perspective from the Boulder Chamber on a few most broadly impactful initiatives.  This perspective isn’t just my own — it’s a synthesis of insights from meetings with ballot-initiative proponents and opponents, along with serious consideration by both our public policy committee and board of directors. 

I open by noting that Boulder business leaders tend to reflect the broad spectrum of interests across our community.  That’s not so surprising, as we live here, too, and share an appreciation for the balance of assets — social, environmental and economic — that makes this such a special place to live and build a business.  Further, while generally being fiscally conservative, we also know it sometimes takes an investment of hard-earned capital to build a stronger foundation for future success.

Boulder Valley School District mill-levy increase

Take the Boulder Valley School District’s request for a mill levy increase, for example.  The initial ask is for $10 million to help cover the cost of certain infrastructure expenses that otherwise take dollars from the classroom.  The actual ballot language gives the school board authorization to increase the mill levy to a rate that could add up to $26 million to District coffers.