Statewide measure to fund education fails

A statewide effort to increase sales and income taxes to benefit public schools and higher education came to a crashing end Tuesday as Colorado voters resoundingly rejected it by nearly 2-to-1.

Out of 925,495 votes tabulated by 11 p.m. in 85 percent of precincts, Proposition 103 was failing by 64 percent to 36 percent. Mesa County voters rejected it by an even greater margin with 74.3 percent opposing it.

That’s good news to those who opposed it, who said it would have hurt the state’s economy at a time when it can least stand it.

“Liberal special interest groups and their allies in Colorado’s Legislature simply do not understand that multibillion-dollar tax hikes lead to massive job loss and stifle economic recovery,” said Tyler Houlton, president of Compass Colorado, a right-leaning advocacy group. “Fortunately for our economy, Coloradans rejected this job-killing $2.9 billion tax hike that was never guaranteed to fund Colorado schools in the first place.”

The measure would have raised the individual and corporate income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent, and the state’s sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3 percent for the next five years.

Proponents hoped it would pump nearly $3 billion into schools during the next five years, making up for the millions of dollars in education cuts over the past three years because of the recession.

State Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who was the main force behind getting the proposition on the ballot, said he just doesn’t understand why Coloradans are unwilling to pay a little bit more to fund their public schools.

“I wish I could figure that out. I wish I had a good answer,” he said. “I just don’t know how far in education cuts we’ll have to do before people realize what we’re doing. I can’t even imagine what the budget discussions are going to be like next year. What we tried to do is put a Band-Aid on it and stop the bleeding to give us time to figure this out.”

Heath said it is ironic that the vote came on the same day that Gov. John Hickenlooper released his proposed state budget for the next fiscal year. That proposal calls for $350 million in cuts to K–12 spending and $60.3 million in cuts to the state’s colleges and universities.

Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said the issue of how much education should be funded isn’t going away despite Tuesday’s outcome.

“While Prop 103’s proposed way forward may not be our preference today, the issue it raises remains relevant,” he said.


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