November voters in Weld County will answer this seemingly simple question: “Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, in concert with the county commissioners of other Colorado counties, pursue becoming the 51st state of the United States of America?” On August 19th the Commissioners voted unanimously to put this question to the electorate. However, there are many unanswered questions about this issue and unfortunately voters will not have all the answers by the time they cast their ballots.
When asked how much it would cost to create a new state government, including a constitutional convention, the Commissioners admitted they don’t know. They feel that Weld County’s government sets a good example of how a state government should work and say they have “a rare opportunity,” in the words of Bill Garcia, to start from scratch.
Questions remain about transportation and education funding. It’s easy to argue that Weld and other rural counties don’t get their fair share of funding for highways compared to the Denver area, but that is not an answer. What would happen to the University of Northern Colorado? The Commissioners have said they believe the new state could provide more funding for K-12 education but have not produced a plan to explain how this would work.
Perhaps one of the biggest areas of concern is water. Commissioner Sean Conway said that water experts have told him the legal challenges facing a new state are not insurmountable. However, a member of Greeley’s Water Board noted that the proposed state has no headwaters of its own and visualizes “”never-ending litigation.” He said that Weld farmers couldn’t afford the fight.
The Commissioners have commissioned a feasibility study, including an economic development assessment that will be available in early October. The results of the study will be made available immediately to the public, according to Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer. Ballots will be mailed to Weld voters the second week of October. Note: The Greeley Water Board opposes the ballot question. Other jurisdictions such as the City of Greeley and other affected districts and municipalities will likely take formal position on the question in the weeks to come.