KUSA-With ballots already out, Colorado voters will decide whether to approve $950 million in increased income taxes to beef up the public school system.
Amendment 66 would change Colorado's 4.63 percent flat income tax rate to a two-tiered progressive tax.
The new rate would be 5 percent on the first $75,000 of taxable income and 5.9 percent for earning above that cutoff.
CALCULATE YOUR TAX INCREASE UNDER AMENDMENT 66 HERE
The money would fund a program to attract and keep high performing teachers, statewide full-day kindergarten, and increased spending in areas with more students from low-income homes.
Those are just a few of the reforms laid out in SB 213, the bill which would be enacted if the voters approve the funding.
Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver) argued in favor of the measure in a debate hosted by 9NEWS.
Jon Caldara argued in opposition. Caldara heads the Independence Institute, a libertarian-minded activist group.
"Regular folks believe it's time to make a reasonable investment back in K-12," argued Johnston.
Supporters argue that the system needs restored funding and changes to its funding model, which the ballot question would pay for.
Opponents don't think the reforms are substantive enough to justify the size of the tax hike.
Caldara suggested that supporters wait and try later in the five-year window allowed by law to find the tax revenue, especially in light of the recent floods and the fact that the economy is still rebounding from the great recession.
Johnston felt it was an insincere argument.
"Because I think the argument is about 'let's wait for next year' as if next year you'll then be on board with us to make a new tax investment in K-12, when really I don't think that's the case," said Johnston. "I've never seen you support a measure like that."
Caldara thought proponents were insincere in arguing that more taxes are needed.
"You have $1.1 billion in surpluses," Caldara said, arguing that the current state surplus could allow the changes to be made without the need for increased taxes.
Caldara sought to portray Amendment 66 as partisan effort by Democrats.
"Can you name any currently elected republican colleague that supports this," asked Caldara.
"The answer is no," replied Johnston. "And to me that is a greater indictment on the leadership of the Republican party than anything else."
The two sparred about the way proponents are advertising for the measure, which includes appeals like "bring back music" and "bring back gym class."
TRUTH TEST: 9NEWS FACT CHECKS AD FOR AND AGAINST AMENDMENT 66
"Is there a guarantee this is going to go to gym class," Caldara asked, pointing out that there isn't any such language in the legislation.
Johnston explains it's not in the bill because Colorado is a local control state. Schools and districts get to prioritize their spending.
"In the places where what they need most is a math teacher, they'll hire that. In the places where what they need most is a gym teacher, they'll hire that," said Johnston.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)