DENVER

Colorado School Finance Overhaul Coalition Turn In Over 160,000 Signatures Calling For Nearly $1 Billion Tax Hike

08/06/2013 06:11 pm ET

Supporters of a ballot proposal for a Colorado school finance overhaul said they delivered over 160,000 signatures Monday.

That's nearly twice the amount of signatures required to place the measure on the November ballot asking voters to increase income taxes nearly $1 billion a year to pay for public school upgrades. State elections officials have just under 30 days to look at a 5 percent random sample to determine the validity rate of the signatures. At least 86,000 signatures need to be valid in order for the measure to make it onto the ballot.

The $950 million initiative known as Initiative 22, would raise money for Colorado education through a change in the state's income tax structure. If the measure makes it onto the ballot and if voters approve, it would take the state's flat income tax of 4.63 percent and change it into a two-tiered system. The rate would increase to 5 percent for the first $75,000 of taxable income and increase to 5.9 percent for earnings above $75,000, regardless of whether filed single or jointly.

The money raised would pay for primarily five things:

  • Incentives for effective teachers
  • Statewide full-day kindergarten
  • Expanded pre-K
  • More funding for at-risk students
  • $100M "innovation fund" grants that schools and districts can compete for

A report by 9News points out that the funds would pay for an increase in school funding by 1/3 and that it would be a bigger tax hike that Proposition 103, which was soundly rejected by voters in 2011.

State Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), who has been the primary force and a sponsor behind the effort told The Denver Post that the proposed initiative addressed questions that had weighed down past educational funding initiatives.

"I've yet to find any voter, most liberal to most conservative, that said I would never, ever want to support an investment in K-12," Johnston told The Denver Post. "What they want to know is: What am I investing in, where will the dollars go, and how will I know what the results look like? And how do I know the dollars won't be siphoned off to something else?"

A recent poll by Magellan Strategies found that 50 percent of Coloradans do support a tax increase to fund public education with 43 percent opposed and 7 percent who were unsure or did not have an opinion. The measure also has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But not everyone is convinced.

"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 the conservative political group CompassColorado.org, an opponent of the measure told 9News.

Another opposition group, Coloradans for Real Education Reform held a news conference Monday with Republican lawmakers and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton railing against Initiative 22.

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