Election Guide 2013: Amendment 66 raises taxes to help fund schools

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— Amendment 66 is a statewide ballot initiative seeking a nearly $1 billion income tax increase, the largest in Colorado history, as a solution for a massive overhaul of Colorado’s public school funding process.

If the issue passes in the November election, it would swap the current flat income tax rate of 4.63 percent for all Coloradans with a two-tier system adjusted to a person’s annual taxable income. The tax rate would increase individual income tax rates from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on federal taxable income up to and including $75,000 and from 4.63 percent to 5.9 percent on income of more than $75,000.

Election 2013

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The revenue generated from the income tax hike is expected to provide $950 million in additional revenue for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education in budget year 2014-15 and $1 billion in 2015-16. The measure would cost the average Colorado family about $133 per year in increased taxes.

Passage of Amendment 66 also would begin implementation of Senate Bill 213, a multiplatform bill passed by the state Legislature last session that creates a new school finance formula and provides funding for all-day kindergarten, at-risk and English language learner students, special education and other programs. The amendment also repeals the state constitutional requirement that base per-pupil funding increases annually by at least the rate of inflation.

At least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax revenue collected at the current tax rates would be deposited into the State Educational Achievement Fund to be used on education-related spending.

Opponents of the bill argue there is no language in the bill that requires the Legislature to actually spend that 43 percent.

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks raised concern that the language in the proposed bill doesn’t necessarily guarantee the money collected would be redistributed to the schools.

Proponents of the bill argue that even if some money isn’t spent on education, it still marks about $1 billion pumped into the Colorado economy.

“In other words, they’re going to collect all this money and put it in a school education and achievement fund, but then we weren’t seeing any language in there that triggered how the money comes back to the districts,” Meeks said.

Meeks said he spoke with state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush about the matter, and she said the district should expect to get its full share of the $1.5 million if Amendment 66 passes. Mitsch Bush said Oct. 14 that it would be “statutorily illegal and unconstitutional” for the money to be spent on anything else.

According to Meeks and School District Finance Director Dale Mellor, the locally generated revenue that would be paid to the state by local taxpayers was estimated at $6.7 million.

“How the voters vote, that’s up to them,” Meeks said. “They do need to know that if (Amendment 66 passes), you’re going to generate $6.7 million that’s going to go into this new state education fund, and then we’re only going to get $1.5 million back.”

Meeks said he learned from the Colorado Association of School Boards that there were 37 school districts in the state that would generate more tax revenue than they would get back under Amendment 66, and Steamboat Springs was one of those.

On Monday, Mitsch Bush said taxpayers giving out more than the districts get back in return is nothing new.

“It’s an investment in the children’s future, and it’s an investment in our future,” she said.

Election Guide 2013

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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