Senator says initiative would buy time to reform education
State Sen. Rollie Heath, during a stop Tuesday in Grand Junction, said education needs more help than his proposed ballot measure, Initiative 25, can offer.
But the Boulder Democrat told a small audience at a rally to gather signatures for the initiative at Long Family Memorial Park he hopes the measure would at least shore up some funding for K–12 and higher education while those deeper changes to education are decided.
Initiative 25 would increase for five years the state sales tax from 2.9 to 3 percent and the income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent. The estimated $536 million a year that would be raised through the tax increases would go into the state’s general fund and would have to be used for education funding, which has declined because of recent state budget cuts.
“We know education equals jobs and economic development,” Heath said. “At some point we need to look at the revenue side. All this does is take us back to the tax rates of 1999.”
Heath said education funding rules outlined in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23 “need to be rationalized.” But that takes time, he said, and that’s time he doesn’t believe Colorado students have to wait for more funding in their schools. “There’s a sense of urgency. You’re only in second grade once,” he said.
Heath must gather 86,125 valid signatures to get his initiative on the Nov. 1 ballot. He said he probably reached or passed the 75,000 mark after his swing through Grand Junction.
Sheron McCampbell, a Grand Junction school bus driver, picked up a petition during Heath’s visit Tuesday and said she planned to spend the afternoon gathering signatures from friends. “I know extra money is a burden these days, but I’ll come up with it to help kids go to school five days a week,” the 65-year-old said.
Former Grand Junction High School Principal Kevin Schott, the incoming director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, said the organization supports Heath’s idea. He said the measure would give legislators a few more years to “permanently address education funding” and its flaws.
No School District 51 representatives were present at Tuesday’s rally. District 51 Board of Education member Diann Rice said the board won’t take a position on Initiative 25 until its contents have been thoroughly studied and the district has determined how the initiative may interact with the district possibly placing a mill-levy-override measure on the November ballot.