K-12 funding bills aimed for ballot

DENVER — Supporters of increasing state funding for K-12 education have filed more than two dozen proposed ballot measures with the Colorado Legislative Council.

While only one is expected to actually make the ballot this fall, each asks taxpayers to accept an increase in the state’s 4.65 percent income tax rate to raise about $1 billion, all of which would go toward funding public schools.

The proposals are tied to a measure pending before the Colorado Legislature designed to reform the way the state funds education, a bill that guarantees that all 178 of the state’s school districts will see more funding, said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.

“We know people don’t like property taxes, and sales taxes are quite regressive, so income seems to be the right structure,” Johnston said. “We’re working on getting the policy right in the (Capitol) building, and outside the building all of those coalition groups will spend the next month or two fighting over which one of those (ballot measures) they can get a coalition behind.”

Each of the proposed ballot measures is slightly different.

While some merely raise the state’s income tax rate to 5 percent for people who earn $100,000 a year or less (5.9 percent for those who make more), others establish a complicated tiered income tax rate.

Some of those go as high as 6.85 percent for the very wealthy in the state.

The people putting together the proposals range from long-time education funding advocates such as Great Education Colorado, to individuals who just want to see dedicated state funding for education.

Many of those groups also are behind a major lawsuit against the state that could require a doubling of the nearly $4 billion the Legislature already spends on public schools.

In the meantime, a few Democratic lawmakers in the Legislature are already holding town hall meetings in their districts to discuss the reform measure and how to fund it.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, whose districts include all or part of Delta County, are planning such a meeting on Saturday.

The two will be at the Paonia Town Hall, 214 Grand Ave., starting at 10 a.m. Hamner is holding a similar event in Crested Butte later in the day.


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