Education tax petition drive coming to valley
The folks who want to put a measure on this fall’s ballot to temporarily raise taxes to fund education are coming to town.
Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, is to lead a rally at Long Family Memorial Park on Tuesday to collect signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.
In the past month, Heath and his campaign, Support Our Schools for a Bright Colorado, have gathered about half of the needed signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
To date, he has about 65,000 signatures and is trying to reach at least 125,000. It takes about 86,000 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, so such campaigns often go far beyond that to ensure they have enough valid registered voters.
Heath has until Aug. 1 to get the rest.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he said of the signature-gathering process. “I’ve personally done 12 petitions with 600 signatures myself, and what I’m finding out is when people understand where we are, that we’re one of the wealthiest states in the country, but virtually last in higher ed and close to that in K–12 funding, most people are appalled.”
Heath has been joined by about 90 different organizations helping gather signatures. They include such groups as Great Education Colorado, Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
The measure would impose a five-year increase in the state’s sales and income taxes. Under it, the state sales tax would increase from 2.9 percent to 3 percent, while the income tax rate would go from 4.63 percent to 5 percent. If approved, the higher rates would be effective from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2016.
It is expected to generate about $536 million a year, all of which would go toward K–12 education and the state’s colleges and universities.
Heath said Coloradans are tired of reading stories about school districts around the state having to cut their budgets, lay off school teachers and increase tuition and fees to make up for the millions of dollars that have been cut to education because of the recent recession.
The campaign says it will cost an average Colorado taxpayer who makes about $56,000 a year approximately $150 more in taxes.
“When you see a 22.8 percent hike in tuition, people understand that we’re at the risk of pricing out higher education for the middle-income folks,” he said. “When all the stories come out about closing a school, bigger class sizes, charging for school buses in rural areas, middle schools’ sports disappearing, librarians going away, all that will bring this to the forefront for people, and this measure has a shot because of that.”