Bill would reduce school spending cuts

QUICKREAD

Tax checkoff would go toward public education

When Coloradans fill out their state income tax returns next year, they may have a new tax checkoff for donate a portion of their refunds. A bill approved by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday would place a new Public Education Fund checkoff on tax forms.

Such checkoffs don’t generate the kind of money needed to fund something as expensive as education, but Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont and the measure’s sponsor, said he hopes it would raise awareness as to the need of funding education adequately.

The Colorado income tax form has 15 checkoffs, including the Military Family Relief Fund and the Western Colorado State Veterans Cemetery Fund. The military fund raises the most money, nearly $188,000 in 2009, and the cemetery fund the least, about $34,000.

State officials have no idea how much money the new checkoff might generate.

— By Charles Ashby



DENVER — A Senate panel approved a measure Wednesday to reduce the $250 million cut to school spending proposed for 2011-2012.

How much less of a budget cut it would be isn’t known.

Senate Bill 1 proposes to transfer to education one-fourth of any tax revenue additional to what the state is expected to receive by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

There are indications revenue could be as much as $370 million more than anticipated. In that case, the $90 million or so that would go to schools would reduce cuts proposed for public education by more than one-third.

“Right now, the governor’s estimate has $238 million (surplus) by the end of the year, but that assumed the governor’s forecast in June doesn’t change,” Natalie Mullis, the Legislature’s chief economist, told the Senate Education Committee. “Right now, the Legislative Council’s forecast is about $130 million above the governor’s … and revenue is coming in slightly above our forecast.”

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins and chairman of the committee that approved the bill on a 7–1 vote, said the measure ensures education is a priority for restoring funding from any surplus revenue, and that it would not prevent next year’s Legislature from allocating even more unanticipated revenue to public schools.

Bacon’s bill was the first measure introduced into the Senate when the 2011 session began in January, but it was kept on the committee’s agenda since then, awaiting the results of a budget compromise for fiscal 2012. The Senate approved that $18 billion plan earlier this week, and the House is expected to cast its final vote on it as early as today.

SB1 heads to the Senate Finance Committee for more debate.



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