Education savings fund amendment voted down

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— Amendment 59, which would have created a savings account to fund public schools in tough economic times, went down in defeat.

The measure had the support of numerous education, civic and business groups that joined to contribute more than $2.5 million to the campaign for the measure.

Opponents ran their campaign largely by distributing fliers and sending e-mails, charging that Amendment 59 was a tax hike. The measure was losing 55 percent to 45 percent late Tuesday night. The vote on Amendment 59 was much closer in Routt County, where it was supported by a hair more than 50 percent of voters.

Former state Rep. Penn Pfiffner, who ran one of two campaigns against the amendment, said opponents succeeded despite being outspent at least 250-to-1.

"The way we were able to succeed was by making clear to Colorado voters that this was a huge tax increase," Pfiffner said.

Pfiffner said the campaign also convinced voters that Amendment 59 proponents were not disclosing the full effects of the measure.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, who led the campaign for the amendment, could not be reached for comment.

Rep. Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, who led another campaign against the proposal, said he will comment today.

Beverly Ingle, president of the Colorado Education Association, said the message that Amendment 59 was a tax increase came at a time when people are worried about the economy. The CEA supported Amendment 59.

"It (Amendment 59) was very difficult to understand and was on a very crowded ballot," Ingle said.

It would have altered parts of two other parts of the (state) constitution that are not widely understood.

When people don't understand a ballot item, they tend to reject it, Ingle said.

Amendment 59 would have funded the savings account for schools from money that otherwise would be returned to taxpayers as rebates under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, adopted by voters in 1992.

TABOR limits the amount of money the state and local governments can take in. Revenue in excess of the cap must be returned.

Also altered was a 2000 amendment that sets school funding levels.

In appearances around the state, Romanoff assured voters that Amendment 59 would not raise taxes.

He also said Amendment 59 does not eliminate the part of TABOR that requires state and local governments to seek voter approval for tax increases.

But Bruce, who wrote TABOR, argued that eliminating the rebates was a tax increase because the government will keep money that belongs to the taxpayers.

Bruce also disputed Romanoff's claim that the amendment doesn't eliminate the right to vote on tax increases.

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