DENVER (CBS4) – In just one week Coloradans will vote on one of the largest tax increases in state history. Amendment 66 would raise income taxes by a billion dollars, with all the money going to schools – and eyes and money from out of state are trying to influence the decision.
The latest campaign finance report shows the group opposing Amendment 66 has brought in $24,400, almost entirely from the Libertarian-leaning Independence Institute. The group supporting Amendment 66 has raised just over $10 million, with $4 million from teachers unions and $2 million from out-of-state billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
There isn’t any official polling on Amendment 66, but it’s clear the “yes” camp is winning by a landslide in monetary support with help from the billionaires.
“Who gets to control what happens in Colorado? Is it Bill Gates from the West Coast and Michael Bloomberg from the East Coast? Or is it Coloradans?” Jon Caldara with the Independence Institute said.
Caldara pointed out 60 percent of donations so far have come from Bloomberg, Gates and unions. But Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, says the measure has also drawn support from a large and rare coalition of business and labor.
“You have the Colorado Forum, a statewide business organization strongly in favor,” Johnston said. “You have Colorado Succeeds, a statewide business organization strongly in favor. You have local school district leaders, county commissioners, you have mayors, you have newspapers from all over the state.”
Johnston said the broad support is because Amendment 66 guarantees all the money goes to schools.
But contrary to ads that are currently running, there’s no guarantee it’ll go to gym teachers, music, art, or any specific program. It’ll be up to school districts to decide.
“There’s no reform in here that makes easy to fire a bad teacher. It doesn’t have ‘pay for performance’ so that good teachers could get sizably more. It doesn’t have tax credits to help kids in bad neighborhoods maybe find a better school. It doesn’t have vouchers in it to give real competition. There’s no real reform in here,” Caldara said.
“There are very specific targeting investments that are required by law in the statute. So take for example school construction, required by law can only be spent on school construction. Technology can only be spent on technology,” Johnston said.
Bloomberg, who also weighed in on Colorado’s gun laws, said if the amendment passes it could serve as a template for other states. But opponents say he doesn’t have to pay the tax increase.
Coloradans will have the final say.
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