Club 20: No on tax hike for schools
Amendment 66, a bill that would boost personal income taxes to pay for public schools, got a failing grade from Club 20, the West Slope advocacy group.
The Club 20 board voted 13-3 on Friday to oppose the measure, which will appear on the November ballot.
Club 20 is conducting its fall meeting and today is hosting a series of discussions about the new health care law and the Colorado health-insurance exchange in a public meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center.
The ballot measure would amend the state constitution to boost income taxes to raise $930 million for more equal state funding of local schools and other efforts.
No safeguards to prevent use of the funding for other purposes, notably shifting money into the Public Employee’s Retirement Association, however, are included in the question, Club 20 member Phil Vaughn of Rulison said.
The organization rejected a request by Rachel Richards of Pitkin County to remain neutral on the question, as it has on previous ballot measures.
Opposition to Amendment 66 overlooked aspects of the question that would free up state funding for other uses endangered under the existing budget, Richards said.
Vaughn urged the organization to take a position, noting that close divisions among urban voters could make western Colorado’s response all the more significant.
“Rural Colorado will make the decision on whether this passes,” Vaughn said.
Club 20’s reputation, however, is at stake, Richards said.
“Please think about the long-term implications of what this organization stands for,” Richards urged the board.
Ultimately, only the resort counties of Routt, Pitkin and Summit voted for a measure calling for Club 20 to remain neutral on the issue, then voted against a resolution opposing the ballot measure.
The actual final vote was 14 1/3 to 3 1/3, a tally made possible by Club 20 rules allowing vote splitting.
Increased income taxes could harm Colorado businesses, Vaughn said, noting that the measure seemed far short of a “silver bullet” for the state’s education issues.
The measure would raise the income tax from a flat 4.63 percent to 5 percent for people earning less than $75,000, and 5.9 percent for those earning more than $75,000.
It would give Colorado a progressive income tax and Vaughn said he worried about using “class warfare” to advance the measure.
A lack of safeguards allows the money to be used for purposes such as shoring up what Club 20 called the “ailing” retirement fund for teachers and state employees, Vaughn said.
Such fears amount to “the biggest red herring of them all,” Richards said, “It’s like I’m seeing a hodge-podge of negatives” aimed at sinking the initiative.
Club 20 was unanimous in support for an immigration bill patterned after one that has passed the U.S. Senate, but hasn’t been taken up in the House, which is fashioning its own measure. The Senate version includes several provisions sought by West Slope farmers and ranchers who depend on immigrants.
The health care session begins at 8 this morning.