DENVER – Canvassers hit the streets soliciting petition signatures to put a $1 billion statewide tax increase to fund public schools on the November ballot, but Gov. John Hickenlooper is missing in action – despite his vow to lead the effort.
The governor launched an email blitz Thursday, touting his record of passing reform legislation in Colorado and asking for cash to fuel his re-election campaign.
Noticeably absent from his list of accomplishments was Senate Bill 213, a measure to reform the state finance formula for public schools, that he signed into law on May 21.
Then, Hickenlooper heaved praise on the measure, saying it “really positions Colorado to be the national leader in school reform and school effectiveness.”
“I will certainly campaign for it when we decide what it is,” said the governor, alluding to 16 different tax funding mechanisms. “I have several preferences, but I’ll keep those to myself.”
A week later, Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman tweeted, “On May 21, you signed SB 213 into law. Today I circulated a petition to get it on the ballot. Where are you.” The tweet was originally reported by Colorado Peak Politics.
A month after Hickenlooper claimed he would campaign for the tax increase, he told reporters that he was undecided. He said that he was “ambivalent” about the tax increase, according to EdNews Colorado.
“It would be crazy to put more money into the (public school) system unless you change the structure of the system,” said Hickenlooper on June 19, as reported by the Associated Press.
If the public is confused by Hickenlooper’s tactics, his fellow Democrats are even more puzzled about his refusal to utter a peep about SB 213 sponsored by fellow Democrats Sens. Michael Johnston of Denver and Rollie Heath of Boulder, and Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon.
Heath asked Colorado voters to approve a similar measure in 2011, but that effort, Proposition 103, failed miserably.
Last year, school districts, under the guidance of the CEA union, passed more than $1.1 billion in local tax hikes and mill levies across Colorado.
“I would think the governor will sign it,” predicted Heath of the statewide tax increase to fund public schools. His comment was made in December, a month before the legislative session began and after Hickenlooper’s so-called “To Be Determined” (dubbed TBD) statewide listening tour.
According to EdNews, the nearly $1 billion tax hike for schools had been part of Hickenlooper’s TBD tours, but as TCO reported, the tax hike proposal was one of many proposed in videos before listeners were asked their opinions.
After the TBD tour concluded last year, Hickenlooper fanned away reporter inquiries about the TBD tax hikes proposed, from highways to schools.
“I still think it’s premature to say that we’re going to the ballot with a tax increase in 2013, or 2014, or 2015,” claimed Hickenlooper.
So far, Hickenlooper has said little while hundreds of volunteers and surveyors stand on street corners and walk neighborhoods to amass at least 86,105 petition signatures by August 5 to put the nearly $1 billion tax hike on the November ballot.
The requested tax increase for preschool through high school funding this year, ballot initiative 22, is a two-tiered system that will raise income taxes.