"'We know that economic development and education are one and the same. What we're doing is cutting economic development," State Senator Rollie Heath, a Boulder Democrat, told John Hickenlooper last week after the Governor proposed a budget that would cut $332 million from the state's K-12 budget in 2011-2012.
Today, Heath--joined by 8 Democratic senators--unveiled his plan to spare the state's public education system from cuts that would result in $497 less per K-12 pupil next year.
Heath says he plans to file a ballot initiative that would raise the state's income tax from 4.63 percent currently to 5 percent, and increase sales tax from 2.9 percent currently to 3.0 percent. The tax hikes would expire after 3 years, during which time they would generate an estimated $1.63 billion in taxes.
"We need to ask our citizens what kind of state they want," Heath said at his press conference on Monday.
Heath said that, for him, Hickenlooper's budget proposal gave him "just a really sick feeling in my stomach."
Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer has also publicly disagreed with Hickenlooper's budget, but has rejected tax increases as a solution.
Republicans quickly jumped on Heath's proposal Monday. "It really shows that there is a disconnect between the Democrat Party and the people of Colorado," said Republican Senator Greg Brophy said in remarks to the press.
Republican House Majority leader Amy Stephens told KDVR "[w]e're not going to tax our way into prosperity."
Senate Republicans also released a resolution pledging an "opposition to tax increases" during the 68th general assembly.
The resolution reads as follows (via the Colorado Independent)
Concerning The Colorado Senate Making A Declaration Of Opposition
To All Tax Increases During The Sixty-Eighth General Assembly
WHEREAS, The General Assembly's top priority is recognized to be supporting job creation and economic recovery; and
WHEREAS, We agree with Governor John Hickenlooper's statement in his State of the State address that "sustainable jobs are created by the private sector"; and
WHEREAS, According to the most recent data available, at least 7 233,300 Coloradans are unemployed; and
WHEREAS, Colorado's unemployment rate is currently at 8.8%, which is higher than it was in January of 2010; and
WHEREAS, Increasing taxes on businesses reduces their incentives to spend, invest, and hire new employees; and
WHEREAS, Increasing taxes on individuals and families reduces the income they have to spend on essentials like food, housing, and health care; and
WHEREAS, Colorado families and businesses are still suffering from the effects of the ongoing recession; and
WHEREAS, Increasing taxes is antithetical to economic growth; and
WHEREAS, The state's budget shortfall is a direct result of the economic slowdown; and
WHEREAS, We agree with President Barack Obama's statement in his 2012 budget that as of December 2010 "a potential tax increase at this time presented a real risk of a return to recession"; and
WHEREAS, Increasing taxes will exacerbate the economic slowdown and will further erode tax revenues; and
WHEREAS, Governor Hickenlooper has repeatedly stated that there is no appetite in Colorado for tax increases; now, therefore,
Be It Resolved by the Senate of the Sixty-eighth General Assembly of the State of Colorado:
That we, the members of the Colorado Senate, resolve not to increase the tax burden on Colorado families and businesses during the Sixty-eighth General Assembly.
LISTEN TO BROPHY'S REMARKS:
WATCH AMY STEPHENS' RESPONSE: