DENVER – The proposed $1 billion statewide income tax increase to boost public school funds cleared its last obstacle Wednesday when the Secretary of State certified the petition signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot.
But voters may not be fully informed of the negative impacts of Amendment 66, formerly known as Initiative 22.
The Legislative Council Committee met Wednesday to hammer out the Blue Book statement to inform voters of the pros and cons of Amendment 66. But Democrats rejected most of the amended statements proposed by Republicans.
“It is very popular on both sides of the aisle to talk about protecting Colorado’s small business owners and it is unfortunate when Democrats fail to walk the talk,” said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland).
“I am disappointed my friends across the aisle failed to think it was important to highlight the consequences of approving this tax increase on Colorado’s hardworking small businesses,” said DelGrosso in a statement.
Republican members of committee proposed Blue Book statements to inform voters of three significant impacts of the massive tax hike:
- The viability of small businesses may be threatened by the increased tax burden.
- Class sizes will not be reduced.
- Taxes paid in some counties will be redistributed to other school districts in other parts of the state.
“Parents all over Colorado tell me that in order improve student achievement we must reduce class sizes,” said Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock), the Ranking Republican on the House Education Committee.
“Unfortunately, Democrats did not see fit to include in the Blue Book the fact that Amendment 66 will not reduce class size,” declared Murray.
Amendment 66, a two-tier income tax increase, is the funding arm to Senate Bill 213, a so-called education reform measure passed by the Democrat-dominated legislature this year.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, aims to fund full-day kindergarten and half-day preschool, and reallocate tax revenues from some school districts to bolster districts with higher percentages of at-risk students from lower income families and children who are not literate in English.
Hickenlooper said the passage of SB 213 makes Colorado a leader in public education reform.
Most Republican lawmakers adamantly disagreed – and like Murray said that Amendment 66 in conjunction with SB 213 does not incorporate any degree of real reform.
Assistant House Minority Leader Libby Szabo (R-Arvada) wanted the Blue Book language to inform voters that the tax increase would not fully benefit school districts in some counties. For example, three counties will pay 32 percent of the new taxes, said Szabo, but receive only 17 percent of the revenue.
The committee comprised of ten Democrats and eight Republicans, can amend the Blue Book statement if an amendment is passed by 12 members. The Democrats rejected Szabo’s proposed language.
“It’s discouraging that Democrats don’t want Colorado voters to have all the relevant information before deciding to vote for or against this tax increase,” said Szabo.