Colorado voters reject major education funding change

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— Routt County voters Tuesday rejected Amendment 66 by a bigger margin than voters statewide.

With 7,175 votes cast in Routt County, nearly 70 percent, or 5,009 voters, rejected the plan. Statewide, Amendment 66 was losing almost 2-to-1, about 66 to 33 percent with 70 percent of the vote counted.

Election 2013

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Amendment 66 would have created wholesale changes for how Colorado funds public education — from expanded preschool to more money for K-12 schools with high numbers of at-risk students.

The measure would have raised income taxes from 4.63 to 5 percent for taxable income as much as $75,000 per year. Income more than $75,000 would have been taxed at 5.9 percent.

The school funding overhaul was approved by lawmakers earlier this year but required voter approval to take effect.

Amendment 66's loss means Colorado will retain a flat income tax structure in place since the 1980s.

Republicans adamantly opposed the measure but held in check any celebrating Tuesday night.

"No one should be celebrating the fact that we're not funding schools," said Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who opposed Amendment 66. "This is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board."

Democratic supporters, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, conceded the loss early but vowed to keep working to improve Colorado's problematic school finance system. The law that accompanied the proposed tax measure can take effect with voter consent until 2017. That means voters could see the tax question again.

The measure would have made significant changes to Colorado's school tax funding formula.

It would have raised per-pupil school funding and backfilled school budgets that were hurt by falling tax revenues during the recession.

The measure also would have fully funded half-day preschool for at-risk students and would have given schools money to implement stricter teacher-tenure standards.

The Democratic state senator who sponsored the reform proposal vowed to keep working at the plan.

"Now, we just start our work again," said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.

But the governor acknowledged a new tactic would be required.

"The one thing we heard again and again was, perhaps this wasn't the best transaction," Hickenlooper said.

"This is all just the down payment and the foundation of what we're all working for in the years ahead. ... We'll get there."

Steamboat Today reporter Tom Ross contributed to this story.

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