Sen. Rollie Heath Wants Tax Hikes To Education Funding

DENVER (AP) – A Democratic state senator wants to ask voters to raise Colorado’s income and sales tax rates, saying the governor’s proposal to further slash education funding by $332 million next year was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Boulder Sen. Rollie Heath said Monday he would bypass the Legislature and collect signatures to take his tax proposal to voters this fall, asking them to raise the state’s individual and corporate tax rates to 5 percent, up from 4.63 percent. Heath’s proposal would also increase the sales and use tax rates to 3 percent, up from 2.9 percent. Heath said the tax hikes would expire in three years and that over that time the state would collect an estimated $1.63 billion for K-12 funding and higher education.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed slashing education funding to help balance the budget. As federal stimulus money and one-time fixes ran out, Hickenlooper has said he had no choice but to cut higher education, which comprises about 40 percent of the state’s budget.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me,” Heath said. Hickenlooper said in his proposal that further budget cuts would also be needed next year, something Heath said gave him “just a really sick feeling in my stomach.”
space Sen. Rollie Heath Wants Tax Hikes To Education Funding

Hickenlooper said in a statement that he understands the proposed cuts are painful.

“We are keeping our first focus on balancing the budget, finding efficiencies and growing jobs in Colorado,” he said. “Senator Heath’s heart-felt proposal deserves to be part of a larger conversation about Colorado’s future and we welcome that conversation.”

Republicans were quick to criticize Heath’s idea and say Hickenlooper is right when he says there is no appetite for tax increases.

“It really shows that there is a disconnect between the Democrat Party and the people of Colorado,” said Republican Sen. Greg Brophy. “Democrats want to increase taxes. We believe, Republicans believe, that the solution to this problem is to live within our means and to reduce spending and when the recession is over, our state revenue will recover.”

Senate Republicans also introduced a resolution Monday opposing all tax increases this legislative session.

Colorado faces a budget shortfall near $1 billion for the fiscal year that starts in July. Hickenlooper’s suggested budget could prompt teacher layoffs and bigger class sizes in many districts. His plan also calls for closing some state parks and a prison in southeast Colorado.

The governor’s budget proposal, which would need approval from the Legislature before taking effect, has prompted howls of protest from some in his party.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, a fellow Democrat, has told senators to come up with some $200 million in additional suggested cuts by next week to agencies other than education.

However, Shaffer and the governor both have ruled out tax hike proposals, at least this year.

“I don’t think the proposal Sen. Heath is bringing forward is one that can realistically make it through the Legislature,” Shaffer told reporters before Heath announced his decision to take his proposal out of lawmakers’ hands.

Still, the Colorado Constitution requires that all tax increases be approved by voters. Heath will need a coalition of business groups to support him outside the Capitol and he admitted Monday he doesn’t yet have.

“We’re going to find out who is going to stand behind us,” Heath said.

His proposal comes as the Legislature considers a proposal to make it harder for citizen-initiated proposals to get on the Colorado ballot, which has one of the lowest signature thresholds in the country. Last November, a proposal needed a little more than 76,000 signatures from Colorado’s 3.2 million registered voters.

Heath said his idea is about preventing more cuts to education, not about racing to the ballot now in case it becomes more difficult.

“And I think it’s time for us to stand up and at least have the courage to ask the citizens of this state, what do they think? And that’s all I’m asking them to do,” he said.

– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.)

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

  • druid0621

    Senator Rollie Heath should sponsor a bill to cut Medicaid and Food Stamps. Those costs are outrageous. We pay enough in taxes now, and most tax payers get precious little for their contributions – thanks to the out of control social spending. Let’s just hope the governor and supreme court do not do another end-run around the constitution and implement tax hikes without the consent of the governed. TABOR is the reason we’re not in the same shape as CA, IL and NY.

  • John

    druid0621 and I totally agree.
    We would have money if the bandits we call government would quit giving it to people that don’t desevr it.
    I am not against helping people but getting real sick and tired of
    paying for illegals and scores of other people that do not now or never
    did contribute to the economy.
    I am pretty tired of Leaches.
    My Daughter in law is a teacher and very much in danger
    of losing a job.
    So I have a dog in the education hunt but our government continues to give money to people who do not earn it.
    As I said I don’t mind helping less fortunate people but Illegals
    do not fit that description.

  • Al Rittenhouse

    Politicians are a joke and so is this idea. Cut you and your buddies wages Mr Heath

  • Herb Homan

    Many continue to ignore the realiity that our state’s tax burden is 49tth in the country. We’re a parsimonioua lot–and need to get over it, I admire Sen. Heath for his courage and putting his own money into an initiative effort.

  • julie kreutzer

    I completely support my Senator Rollie Heath! There has been a constant drumbeat that government is bad and overgrown, that we have no money and we must cut critical programs, including education. Rollie has spoken up and told the truth. The truth is that we cut taxes, beginning in the 90’s, continuing in 2000 and we have had less tax dollars ever since to fund key programs. For years, we have been cutting away at state programs. Whatever waste and non-essentials was there is long gone and now we face mass lay-offs of critical personnel and wholesale gutting of important government services. What has changed? We have always been able to pay for these things, why can’t we do it now? The answer is only partly our Recession. We reduced taxes, beginning in the 90’s and continuing in 2000 and we need to restore them to a reasonable rate. Rollie is proposing restoring them to 2000 levels from 4.63 to 5% on individual and corporate tax rates and from 2.9% to 3% on sales tax. He is being called a radical for this but do the math! Calculate what that small difference does to your purchase of a sweater or on your income tax. It is not that much. Restoring taxes to where they were nearly ten years ago is hardly a terrifying new development and it quite manageable for all of us. Even without doing the math, think back to the time before the tax cuts. Do you recall mass suffering and recession prior to those tax cuts? Do you recall thinking that if we didn’t have tax cuts businesses just couldn’t go on? No, the truth is the cuts were worked through by wealthy interests at a time when the economy was running hot and no one did the math. Now we need to restore taxes to their earlier levels because the math shows we need the money so that we can fund programs that we require. The misguided idea that tax cuts would make our state stronger was obviously a lie. As a small business owner and a citizen I am quite willing to pay my share, particularly since it is not that much money. Frankly, I think some effort should be put into make taxes more equitable so that wealthy interests and individuals paid their share. Even so, I would support this proposal of spreading the tax so we all pay a little more. I know what those teachers have done for my son and all the other students who need them. It’s crazy to fire them and increase class sizes even more. For that matter, we also need to take care of the environment and pay for other essential state workers and services. Aren’t you tired of hearing that our firefighters, police and teachers are some sort of insidious bad thing because they are the ‘government’? Do you want to keep the workers who will teach the next generation of workers, monitor your food’s safety, and fight fires? Isn’t it time to pay them and take care of the state instead of standing around whimpering as it falls into disrepair? Join me by supporting Rollie’s efforts. The only thing holding us back is the foolish perception that we can’t make the connection between loving our state and paying to take care of it. We currently have schools, museums, libraries and fire departments because those before us were willing to build and pay for them. Unless you think we don’t need them, call your representatives and senators and tell them you want to restore reasonable taxes. If you are concerned about growing disparity between the wealthy few and the rest of us, tell them you want tax equity where the wealthy pay their fair share. And please tell them mass lay-offs and cutting vital programs and services is not an option!

    Julie Kreutzer
    2870 Dover Drive
    Boulder, Colorado 80305

    • Number 6


      With all due respect to Rollie; but he is absolutely nuts to think the taxpayers should be fleeced for more money that the politicians and school districts have mismanaged. The typical tax and spend politician attitude is to steal more money from the corporate and individual taxpayers to pay for their failed feel good social engineering programs. Quite frankly I’m tired of being robbed.

      If the schools want more of Coloradans money, then all illegal alien students need to pay full freight for their education. No more freebies for people who have no right to be here.

      Government should learn from the Wal-Mart business model of low prices and high volume equals positive cash flow to operate a business. Let people keep more of the money they’ve busted their hump to earn, and they will spend it, invest it, and do useful things with it…and the government will make the money it needs to operate via increase sales tax volume.

      As for the wealthy paying their fair share; wake up! Why should wealthy people be penalized for being successful? Generating wealth is the whole point of capitalism. Do you operate your business with the intent of not generating wealth for you and your family? The only fair tax is a flat and/or sales tax where everybody pays their fair share. Spare me about the poor being hurt in such a manner. If they don’t like their lot in life, work to improve it instead of relying on Uncle Sugar to take care of them.

      I don’t mind helping the down and out; but that is what private charities are for, and they generally know their market better than the government does.

      Those who can, do…those who can’t, work for the government.

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