Colorado

Aug 5, 2013 3:41 PM by Andy Koen

School tax increase backers turn in signatures

DENVER - Supporters of a ballot initiative that would raise state income taxes to pay for increased school spending turned in more than 160,000 signatures to the Secretary of State today, nearly double the 86,105 needed to put the question on the November ballot.

If passed, the Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative (Amendment 66) would raise state income taxes from 4.63 percent to 5 percent for everyone earning $75,000 a year or less. For those making over $75,000 a year, the new tax rate would still be 5 percent for the first $75,000 of income and then 5.9 percent on any income above that rate.

Based on the current median household income of $57,685 per year, a typical Colorado family could expect to pay $133.18 more on their state income taxes.

According to the initiative's campaign website, the estimated $950 million raised under the new tax structure would be locked in a new State Education Achievement Fund. That money could only be used for education reform, rural schools, classroom technology, early childhood education, full-day kindergarten and preschool, gifted and talented students, at-risk students, and English language learners (ELL).

Gail Klapper, director of the Colorado Forum, which has worked to draft the language initiative, said in a news release today that she is confident the measure will be supported by voters.

"We're not just delivering petitions today," Klapper said. "We're delivering a message to our students and our businesses that Coloradans understand the best investment we can make in their economic futures is through our education system."

Despite years of cuts, public education funding is still the single largest expense in the state budget. Governor Hickenlooper's current budget calls for $3.03 billion in spending on schools, roughly 37 percent of the total $8.75 billion state budget.

The $950 million increase would grow the state budget by roughly 10 percent to $9.7 billion. The portion of that money spent on schools would also grow to roughly 41 percent of the total budget.

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