Proposition 103 foes fear money could be hijacked

It would take the approval of the Legislature and Gov. John Hickenlooper to spend money raised by Proposition 103 on anything other than education if the ballot measure passes Tuesday.

But opponents of the measure say they are concerned that’s what will happen.

“It doesn’t mean all of that money would go to other areas, but all it takes is a simple majority vote and the governor to reallocate those funds,” said former Republican Rep. Victor Mitchell of Castle Rock, who serves as chairman of anti-Proposition 103 committee Save Colorado Jobs.

The proposition as it appears on the Nov. 1 ballot states the $536.1 million a year it would raise for five years through a 0.1-percentage-point sales tax increase and a 0.37-percentage-point income tax increase would “be spent only to fund public education.”

Proposition 103 author Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said the language could legally be changed to use the tax revenue for other expenditures, but he believes the chances of that happening are slim.“I just can’t believe any Republican or Democrat would overturn something the citizens have done. I don’t believe that’s ever happened. I’m not even sure it’s ever been attempted,” Heath said.

Heath said it would be harder to change the state Constitution than to make a statutory change. But he opted for a statutory measure to solidify his stance that the proposition is a short-term solution while legislators search for a long-term solution to education-funding problems.

“That’s what got us in this mess is (education-related constitutional measures) Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment,” Heath said.

Hickenlooper has not taken a position on Proposition 103, citing his desire not to support a tax increase in his first year in office. But he has said he would reject a legislative attempt to change the proposition’s intent, telling Denver’s Fox 31 television station on Monday he “would certainly veto an effort to take that money away from education.”

Heath said he has no hard feelings about Hickenlooper refraining from showing support for the measure, but he appreciated the governor saying he would veto attempts to change Proposition 103.

Mitchell, though, said the governor’s comments did not convince him.


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