DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper not only agreed to promote the $1 billion income tax for public education, he pushed the tax hike in his State of the State address in January in the wake of his so-called TBD (To Be Determined) initiative last year.
Instead of jumping out of airplanes to promote the mega-tax bite or “coming clean” in a campaign shower TV ad, Hickenlooper has taken a backseat. This week, he cautiously endorsed Amendment 66 in an email blitz to his re-election campaign fans – riddled with misleading statements.
“Education is one of the most important investments we can make in our kids and our state,” said the Hickenlooper For Governor message bearing his signature.
“In Colorado, every kid deserves a great education, from at-risk students to gifted and talented students, regardless of whether they’re from the Eastern Plains, the Western Slope or the Front Range, from the inner city or from a suburban neighborhood,” he said.
“That’s why a broad coalition of leaders from business and education communities is supporting Amendment 66,” asserted Hickenlooper on Monday.
Is the governor’s listening tour stalled on Route 66?
On Tuesday, Colorado Concern joined a growing number of business leadership entities opposed to Amendment 66 including the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Club 20 on the Western Slope, Action 22 in Southeast Colorado, Douglas County Business Alliance, the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce as well as chambers in Arvada, Castle Pines, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greater Glendale, Highlands Ranch and Loveland.
Colorado Concern, a coalition of state business and education leaders, opposes the nearly $1 billion-a-year income tax hike because the teachers union, Colorado Education Association (CEA), intends to file a lawsuit after the November election to strip teacher accountability standards from education reforms enacted in 2010 under Senate Bill 191.
“(It) felt disingenuous at best,” said Colorado Concern’s statement. “Ensuring that the decision to litigate occurred after the election lacked the transparency we believe voters deserve.”
Earlier this month Hickenlooper claimed that he had tried to halt the lawsuit and failed, but vowed to protect SB 191 reforms on behalf of the state. Yet, the governor didn’t mention the pending litigation in his email promoting Amendment 66 this week.
“This investment will modernize our schools and fund reforms approved by the General Assembly,” said Hickenlooper, who also promised the tax hike would ensure half-day preschool and full-day kindergarten in all schools, lower class size, help charter schools and hire effective teachers.
Those promises, according to critics, are not guaranteed by the passage of Amendment 66 or in reform laws enacted by Hickenlooper and Gov. Bill Ritter.
“Just as important is what this ballot initiative means for Colorado’s businesses,” declared Hickenlooper.
“If we’re successful, this initiative will benefit the entire state by creating a better educated workforce for existing businesses – making us more appealing to people thinking about starting a new business or relocating an existing business to Colorado.”
But, an analysis by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI) of data provided by the state Department of Revenue concluded that 94 percent of business which file individual income tax returns will be hit with higher taxes – some will take a 28 percent higher hit.
“For CACI, it’s the category of “business” that has been of great interest because the proponents appear to be downplaying the effect of Amendment 66 on the business community,” stated the Colorado Chamber of Commerce website.
The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate index ranked Colorado 19th in the nation this year, a dismal rating compared to Wyoming, ranked number 1, followed by South Dakota and Nevada, second and third respectively. Utah and Texas ranked 9th and 11th – eclipsing Colorado.
Colorado’s business ranking has fallen over the past three years – the decline will likely continue if voters approve Amendment 66. These statistics could answer a question raised by NFIB Colorado Director Tony Gagliardi in a Colorado Springs Gazette interview.
“I think the question is: why do you not see bipartisan support for (Amendment 66)?” he asked. “They’ve gone so far to say businesses support it. We say, show us the businesses.”
Colorado Succeeds, a pro-education business group, jumped on board the Amendment 66 bandwagon this week. Unions, including the National Education Association, Colorado Education Association and Greater Education Colorado, support and fund the Colorado Commits to Kids campaign to pass Amendment 66.
“I’m voting yes (and will turn in my ballot) by Nov. 5. Friends, please join us in committing to Colorado’s kids,” declared Hickenlooper, finally endorsing Amendment 66 at the end of the email to his re-election campaign buds.