DENVER - If workers with Colorado Commits to Kids campaign have the required 86,105 certified signatures by Monday morning, then every voter in the state will get to weigh in on the nearly billion dollar question. Should income taxes go up to support schools?
"We've had a lot of excitement and we've had a lot of people who have been saying to us, 'Wow, thanks so much for doing this'," Sen. Mike Johnston, (D) Denver, said.
Johnston is one of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 213 which was passed during the last legislative session. This law would amend the current school finance act if voters approve a two-tiered income tax increase on the November ballot. That is, if supporters of the education tax proposal have enough certified signatures.
"We've found really great response which I think indicates people want to see the question on the ballot," Johnston said.
If the measure is approved, the income tax rate would increase from 4.6 percent to 5 percent for incomes lower than $75,000. For higher incomes, the income tax rate would be 5 percent on a taxable income up to $75,000. Then there wouldbea rate of 5.9 percent on any taxable income above that amount. Colorado Commits to Kids estimates that for someone making the state median income of $57,000 per year, the income tax payment would increase by about $133 per year. For someone making about $100,000 per year, the increase in income taxes would be about $250. The estimated extra revenue for schools generated would be about $950 million.
"At the end of the day, there's no evidence to show that the money that would be raised out of this tax increase will actually increase student performance," Kelly Maher, executive director of CompassColorado.org.
Compass Colorado calls itself a grass roots organization aimed at promoting policy that is good for the state's economy. Maher is not so sure that Colorado Commits to Kids will submit enough signatures to the Capitol Monday morning. She says this tax increase will not only hurt families, but it will hurt small business owners.
"This tax increase disproportionately hurts small businesses at a time when Colorado's recovery is very fragile," Maher said.
Johnson says, if passed, the measure will finally put Colorado in line with other states when it comes to per pupil funding. He also says it will create a new accountability system that will revolutionize Colorado schools.
"We will make Colorado the leading state in the country on education reform and education results," Johnston said. "You'll be able to be the first state in the country to know where every single dollar goes in our system every day."
Maher says the tax increase is not needed because the Colorado economy is recovering.
"This is exactly the wrong time to levy a tax increase," Maher said. "It's projected next year with we are going to have a $1.6 billion surplus in the education fund."
Both groups are expected hold press conferences on Monday once the signatures are turned into the state.