Income Tax Increase for Education Could Be on Fall Ballot

A campaign to gather signatures for a November ballot proposal is underway to put a measure on the fall ballot to raise $950 million for public education.

The Colorado Education Association said it began collecting signatures on June 14, after it got packets with the state-approved language that would be proposed for the ballot. Colorado Commits to Kids, a new campaign committee, recently announced the details of the two-tier income tax proposal and signature drive. The group must submit the signatures of 86,105 registered voters to the secretary of state by August 5 for a place on the ballot.

The proposed ballot initiative would raise Colorado’s current income tax rate, a flat 4.63 percent, to 5 percent for anyone with a taxable income of less than $75,000 a year. Higher earners would be taxed at a rate of 5 percent for income up to $75,000 annually and 5.9 percent for earnings above that amount. Higher earners would be taxed at a rate of 5 percent for income up to $75,000 annually and 5.9 percent for earnings above that threshold. For example, a person with an annual income of $45,000 would pay an additional $166.50 a year, while someone who earns $100,000 a year would contribute an extra $595 annually.The money raised would fund measures that include decreased class sizes, increased access to kindergarten and bolstered special education programs.

Under the proposed ballot measure, known as Initiative 22, income of more than $75,000 would be taxed at a higher rate — a sticking point for some in the business community who have argued against anything but an across-the-board flat-tax increase. Higher earners would be taxed at a rate of 5.9 percent for earnings. For example, a person with an annual income of $45,000 would pay an additional $166.50 a year, while someone who earns $100,000 a year would contribute an extra $595 annually.

State Senator Mike Johnston, D-Denver, who spent two years crafting the school finance legislation, said the ballot proposal is the most fair taxing mechanism to pay for needed changes. While Johnston acknowledged that some business groups do not support the two-step proposal, he said it has the support of others in the business community.  “The flat-tax proposal would make Colorado the single-highest flat tax in the country, and it would represent twice as large an increase on the average taxpayer as the two-step proposal does,” Johnston said.

According to analysis by the Colorado Legislative Council, state tax revenue would have to increase by $1.12 billion to pay for the school finance overhaul, which includes additional money for the implementation of reform measures and for at-risk students. Even if voters approve the $950 million tax proposal, lawmakers will have to figure out how to make up that shortfall.

If approved, the ballot measure makes a key change to how future state funding for schools is determined. It repeals a section in Amendment 23 that requires funding for public education to increase by the annual rate of inflation and instead adopts a provision that sets aside a minimum of 43 percent of the state’s tax revenue for K-12 schools.

Note: CARPAC (Colorado Association of Realtors Political Action Committee) has not taken a position on the measure. However CARPAC could do so if Colorado Commits to Kids is successful in its quest to gather 86,105 valid signatures.

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