Measure to fund K-12 education on fall ballot

A measure to increase income taxes to fund K-12 education will be on this fall’s ballot, the Secretary of State’s Office announced Wednesday.

Last month, proponents of the measure submitted petitions with nearly double the number of signatures needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

But a random count of those petitions revealed it didn’t have enough to make the ballot, which triggered a line-by-line count. With such large petition efforts, it’s common that such random counts are done first, which is based on a 5 percent random sampling.

After the full count, however, the office determined that 89,820 of the 165,710 signatures that were submitted were from registered voters. The effort needed at least 86,105 valid signatures.

The measure, to be known as Amendment 66, would create a two-tiered income tax system in the state, replacing the state’s current flat income tax rate of 4.63 percent.

Under that tiered system, taxpayers who earn less than $75,000 a year would pay a 5 percent tax rate, while those who earn more would pay 5.9 percent.

Under it, the average taxpayer in the lower scale would see about a $123 annual increase in taxes, while those who make $100,000 would pay nearly $600 a year more than they do now.

The entire effort is expected to raise about $950,000 a year for K-12 education.

If voters approve the measure, it automatically implements a new funding formula to the state’s 178 school districts that is designed to ensure that each gets more money than they do now.

Supporters of the measure say that new funding mechanism is designed to address inequities in the way schools are currently funded.

“Coloradans support the critically important improvements that Amendment 66 will bring to our public education system, like small class sizes, one-on-one attention for each student, and the chance to see where every dollar is going within each district,” said Gail Klapper, director of the Colorado Forum, which has been working with business, civic and educational leaders on the idea. “This is our best chance to invest in the future of Colorado and to ensure each child has access to a high-quality education.”

The measure also designates that at least 43 percent of the state’s income, sales and excise taxes go to fund schools, and would eliminate the oft-criticized Amendment 23, passed by voters in 2000 that guaranteed increased funding to public schools regardless of the state’s economy.

Opponents of the measure argue that the state already is expecting to see a $1 billion increase in tax revenue now that the economy is improving, adding that the two-tiered system unfairly burdens businesses.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers — arguing for additional wording in the state’s election guide outlining the pros and cons of the measure — said Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature prevented them from adding language explaining the perceived burden.

“It is very popular for members on both sides of the aisle to talk about protecting Colorado’s small business owners and it is unfortunate when Democrats fail to walk the talk,” said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland. “I am disappointed my friends across the aisle failed to think it was important to highlight the consequences of approving this tax increase on Colorado’s hardworking small business owners.”

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