DENVER (CBS4) – Starting Wednesday ballots go out in an election that includes a statewide tax hike. Voters will decide whether to increase sales and income taxes to fund education.
“I’ve got a lot of push back on this and I’ve done a lot of hand-wringing myself,” said Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.
When Heath said he planned to seek a tax increase for education in February he knew it sounded like crazy talk. After all, who floats a tax increase in this economy?
But that was then.
“We know that education is key to our future, it’s the key to everything,” Heath said.
This is now. Just three weeks before election day Heath has a measure on the ballot and opponents are worried it might just pass.
“I think what’s happened since February when this crazy idea entered my head to now is I think there’s a sense of urgency we didn’t have before,” Heath said.
For Heath it sank when Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget came out this year. It called for more than $350 million in cuts to education — after $260 million the year before.
“That’s when I said, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ I didn’t know what that something was,” he said.
Today it’s called Proposition 103 — a ballot measure that would return sales and income taxes to 1999 levels for 5 years. Sales tax would jump about 3.5 percent and income tax 8 percent.
“How many people do you know received an 8 percent raise in the last year,” John Caldara with the Independence Institute said. “I’m wondering why the government deserves an 8 percent raise.”
Caldara with the conservative-leaning Independence Institute says their analysis shows the measure would cost between 7,000 and 11,000 jobs a year.
“This is billions of dollars that will be sucked out of the private sector and put in government sector,” Caldara said. “That is money that will not be used to employ people in the private sector.”
“What’s going to cost us jobs is our inability to recruit companies here and people here,” Heath said.
Colorado is in the lower half of the country in per-pupil funding, and next year education faces another $300 million cut — unless Proposition 103 passes.
“Yeah, I think we’ve got more than a good shot at this,” Heath said.
If it passes, Proposition 103 would generate about $3 billion a year for education over the next 5 years.