‘Yes’ on Prop. 103

Initially, we were hesitant to support Proposition 103, the statewide ballot measure that would temporarily raise state sales and income taxes to help fund education. Among other things, we feared it would compete with — and possibly draw votes from — Referred Measure 3A, the School District 51 ballot measure aimed at restoring funds for local schools.

In an earlier editorial, we urged voters to support Referred Measure 3A.

Rollie Heath, the irrepressible state senator from Boulder, persuaded us of the merits of Proposition 103, which he drafted. He also led the effort to get the measure on the Nov. 1, ballot.

To begin with, Proposition 103 does nothing more than return Colorado’s income and sales taxes to the rates they were at in 1999. The state income tax would rise from 4.65 percent to 5 percent for the next five years if Proposition 103 passes, and the state sales tax would increase from 2.9 percent to 3 percent.

Those weren’t economy-killing tax rates when they existed for years prior to 1999. In fact, we suspect most folks didn’t even notice any significant change in their available funds after the tax rates were lowered.

That’s not to say there won’t be impact now from reinstating the 1999-level tax rates. According to Colorado’s Blue Book analysis of Proposition 103, a married couple with a combined income of $125,000 would pay about $315 more in annual income taxes if the measure passes. Coloradans would also pay 50 cents more in sales taxes for every $500 worth of taxable goods they purchase.

The result would be more than $2.7 billion in additional revenue for our schools — with some of that going to higher education — over the five-year life of the measure.

Heath said if that money is divided under the same formula that is currently used for school finance, it would mean $532 per student for District 51 — or more than $11 million a year. The state Legislature will determine how the funds are to be divided.

Heath also noted that the state general fund now stands at $6.8 billion, almost identical to what it was 10 years ago. But, during those 10 years, Colorado’s population has increased by some 775,000 people, and it’s K–12 student enrollment has risen by approximately 100,000 students.

It’s ridiculous to think we can meet the larger needs of 2011 with 2001 funding levels.

Some may say, “The Daily Sentinel supports any tax increase that comes along.” We haven’t in the past, and we don’t now.

But we believe strongly that a competent education system is critical to the economic welfare of our state and our community. Those who don’t have children in school still have skin in the game, if they want to see a growing, economically vibrant area.

Schools statewide, and District 51 in particular, have cut budgets dramatically over the past three years. More cuts are coming unless additional funds are found. No doubt, more places can be found to make incremental cuts.

But there’s no way to make further, large-scale cuts without adversely affecting our public education system, and Colorado’s reputation as a great place to live and conduct business.

Vote “Yes” on Proposition 103.


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