Here's an understatement: a ballot initiative proposed by Colorado Senator Rollie Heath has ruffled some feathers in the blogo-sphere.
ColoradoPols reports Initiative 25 has made the ballot in Colorado as Proposition 103. "Coloradans will finally have the chance to decide whether to allow another round of devastating and short-sighted cuts to classrooms or to reinvest in our schools, our communities and our economy," said Senator Heath in a Bright Colorado press release. Bright Colorado collected over 142,000 signatures for placement on the ballot; 86,000 were needed.
Heath's work, Initiative 25, would set Colorado's individual and corporate income taxes, in addition to state sales taxes, back to their 1999 levels. That is to say, income taxes would rise from their current 4.63 percent to 5 percent (an 8 percent boost), and sales taxes would be raised from 2.9 percent to 3 percent (3 percent increase). The initiative would direct all the financial payoff to help boost Colorado's ailing education funding.
By reverting taxes to 1999 levels, Colorado's K-12 schools would receive an estimated $536 million per year for the next five years (from 2012 through 2016). For a state that many argue has perennially underfunded education, $3 billion over five years would help greatly.
Kindergarten through 12th grade education has been cut four years in a row, forcing teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. Higher education is facing huge cuts of state funding, pushing tuition up and making college less accessible for middle-class families. Education is vital to Colorado’s prosperity.
This all sounds well and good. What's the catch? Jobs.
A report by Oregon economist Dr. Eric Fruits predicts that Colorado businesses paying higher taxes may be unable to hire new workers (and in some cases may even lose some). How many jobs could be lost? Good question.
The Colorado GOP estimates a loss of around 119,000 jobs over the course of 5 years. Other organizations take the report to mean a loss of less than 30,000 over the same period. Still more, including the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, estimate losses to be far less. Somehow, this rift of predictions is based on the exact same data from Dr. Fruits.
Reached for comment by the HuffPost Thursday, Dr. Fruits clarified,
If the tax increases remain in effect through 2017, then employment in that year would be 30,500 lower than otherwise. I presented the information in the way I prefer to present it. It is up to the reader to decide whether to focus on the yearly 'snapshots' or add up the figures into job-years. Either approach seems to be widely accepted.
I was also careful to characterize the findings as differences in employment rather than 'job losses.' The analysis does not model the sources of reduced employment. Some of the differences in employment would result from a slowdown in hiring, reduced in-migration, as well as layoffs. The difference between reduced employment and job losses is subtle, but important.
Ultimately it comes down to simple math: should employment differences compound yearly? In which case, if a job is not created in one year, five years later it counts as five missed job-years; or should each year be treated as a separate instance--so that, after five years, one non-job still counts as one?
As of Friday morning, emails to Sen. Heath and Support Our Schools were not immediately returned.