The Subtle Campaign for a $950M Tax Increase

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(Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Voters across Colorado will begin to receive mail-in ballots this week. Among the issues that voters will be asked to approve or decline will be new sales taxes on recreational marijuana and Amendment 66, which would fund the School Finance Act.

Amendment 66 asks voters to approve an increase in taxes totaling an estimated $950 million a year to fund the School Finance Act. The act would change some of the funding mechanisms for K-12 education in the state and support other various education programs.

I’m not sure if Amendment 66 is the largest tax increase on a Colorado ballot, but I am fairly confident that it is currently running one of the most subtle campaigns of any major tax increase in Colorado history.

The campaign is subtle by design. Proponents have relied on educating voters through grass roots efforts and public meetings. I think that theory works well for active voters who seek out information and have the interest and time to participate in a democracy.

But the fact of the matter is that the majority of voters in Colorado are not directly involved in education issues, nor are they usually active enough to attend community meetings on any ballot issues. Many voters will have their opinion on how to vote swayed by political ads.

If that remains the case in Colorado, the campaign supporting Amendment 66 may change the way political ads work in our state. The television ads to this point have run very basic messaging over simple aspects of the School Finance Act.

Instead of providing a great deal of detail, the campaign has focused on small points that are hard to argue with, but also hard to justify nearly a billion dollar increase by themselves. The campaign also did not start running significant television ads until October.

Obviously the intent is not draw out all of the major points of the School Finance Act, but rather to find support through some of the more basic parts of the proposal and hope that the entire proposal will get support through popular elements of the amendment.

It could prove to be a very effective strategy since the general opinion of aggressive negative ads, that we usually see every election season, is very low. However, remember, negative ads wouldn’t exist at all if they didn’t work.

But the proponents are definitely running a risky strategy. Colorado voters are not stingy when it comes to education funding, but in general, they do like to know exactly what they are paying for. It’s hard to accomplish that in a clever, short television ad.

Maybe this strategy will set a new precedent for elections in Colorado. Then again, it may just reaffirm how Colorado voters go about their business. We’ll know for sure in just three weeks.

In the meantime, hopefully, if you plan to vote, you have done your research on Amendment 66. But, if you are still looking for input, be sure to check out our Colorado Decides debate, a co-production of CBS Denver and CPT-12, featuring representatives from both sides of Amendment 66 this Friday at 8 p.m. on Channel 12.

Dominic Dezzutti’s Latest Blog Entries

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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