08/04/2011 01:03 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2011

Sen. Heath's Initiative 25 Aims To Reverse Perennial Decreases In Colorado Education Funding

Colorado Senator Rollie Heath, the legislator backing a proposed tax increase in the state to benefit education funding, must be breathing a sigh of relief. In addition to the 142,000 signatures his group has collected to petition the initiative onto Colorado's November ballot (only 86,000 are needed in Colorado), he also recently won the support of two major education groups, reports the Denver Post.

The Colorado Association of School Boards officially supports the initiative, as does the Colorado Association of School Executives.

Heath's proposed Initiative 25 would set Colorado's individual and corporate income taxes, in addition to state sales taxes, back to their 1999 levels. Income taxes in the state would rise from their current 4.63 percent to 5 percent, and sales taxes would increase from 2.9 percent to 3 percent. The initiative would direct all financial payoff to Colorado education funds, resulting in an estimated $536 million in additional education funding per year for the next five years, totaling near $3 billion.

Advocates argue the initiative is

an opportunity to do what the politicians have failed to do – to put children first, stop the cuts to public education and begin rebuilding our educational and economic future.

The initiative is also positioned to open the door for deeper, systemic change. As Senator Heath told the Colorado Independent, "this is a band-aid. We need a structural fix and this is designed to buy us the time to get this done." In the 2008-2009 school year, Colorado ranked 40th out of the 50 states in per-pupil spending.

Critics, meanwhile, fire back that tax hikes in the midst of an economic downturn will hinder job market growth. A somewhat contentious study on the measure's impact has simultaneously been interpreted to predict less than 30,500 and over 119,000 in decreased employment over five years.

Reached for comment by the Huffington Post to clarify the misunderstanding, the study's author, Dr. Eric Fruits stated:

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.

Colorado voters will ultimately vote on the initiative in November. A yes vote, says Heath, "will state loud and clear that we are open for business. That's the best economic development message we can send."