Backers of new school tax turn in 160,000 signatures
The proponents of a measure to raise taxes to fund K-12 education turned in petitions Monday with more than 160,000 signatures to get the issue on this year’s ballot.
The group, Colorado Commits to Kids, needs only about half that amount — 86,105 – to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
While the Secretary of State’s Office must first certify that there are enough signatures from registered voters to get it onto the ballot, its backers said they were confident that wouldn’t be a problem.
The real test will be to get voters to approve what will amount to about a $950 million income tax hike, they said.
The proposed ballot question is tied to a bill approved by the Colorado Legislature earlier this year that redesigns how the state funds public schools and corrects some of the inequities that have built up since 1994, the last time the state reformed education spending, said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, who sponsored the bill.
“We started by dramatically cutting out all the fat in the current system,” he said. “We looked carefully at where there were inefficiencies in our current system and re-appropriated it onto places where it makes a big difference.”
Thing is, though, those reforms won’t go into effect unless voters approve the tax increase.
The measure, currently known as Initiative 22, would create a two-tiered income tax rate, increasing it from the current 4.63 percent everyone pays now to 5 percent for those who earn $75,000 a year or less, and 5.9 percent for those who make more.
The additional taxes it generates would be dedicated to K-12 education.
Johnston said the average taxpayer in the lower scale will see about a $123 annual increase in taxes, while those who make $100,000 would pay nearly $600 more than they do now.
Opponents say the ballot measure is too far reaching and doesn’t overhaul education funding enough to justify it.
According to its campaign finance report with the Secretary of State’s Office, the opposition group, Coloradans for Real Education Reform, also launched its campaign on Monday but has yet to raise any money to battle the measure.
The supporters, meanwhile, have raised more than $1 million since forming in early July, paying more than half that amount — $570,000 — to a Washington, D.C.-based consulting group to finance paid petitioners to gather the signatures.
The bulk of their campaign donations are from such people as Pat Stryker, a well-known Democratic Party supporter, who’s given more than $250,000 to the effort.
Other supporters who have donated about as much include business people, investment companies and the Colorado Education Association.