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Another reason for Coloradans to vote no on Prop. 103

By | September 30th, 2011

Proposition 103 is being billed (in my opinion, disingenuously) as a “five-year timeout from school cuts” in Colorado. In reality, it raises taxes an estimated $2.9 billion in that time, purportedly to fund education.

Listen to this explanation from state Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, to Club 20 earlier this month…

“I think everybody feels we’ve hit the bottom. God forbid if we haven’t. The way I talk about this is a rising tide raises all ships. But let me just kind of walk you through it a little bit, because those who want all the money to go to education get disappointed when I talk about this.

“We must fund to the ’11-’12 level [if Prop. 103 passes]. The assumption is that the economy is going to gradually increase. And if you - I don’t have the table here - but if you would go to it, this assumes, in the economic forecast that we’re going to start at $536 million [$514.7 million, according to the Blue Book] going in the first year to this. And it goes up to $644 [million] in year five. So it assumes a gradual increase…

“We must fund to the ’11-’12 level. So, as the economy grows, the legislature - rather than putting 47 cents on the dollar into K through 12, as that economy grows - is only going to have to fund to the ’11-’12 level. All of this goes into education, but that allows that revenue that would go - and of course the General Assembly can do whatever they want with that excess revenue - which you would hope it would go into all the other functions of government, if you follow me on that.

“So, basically, as the general fund grows, as we elect to fund the ’11-’12 level, that leaves other money to go into the other areas of government.”

Prop. 103 includes a provision that sets a base spending level for education at 2011-2012 expenditures, then requires that all additional tax revenues collected by higher income and sales tax rates under Prop. 103 also be allocated to education. The point that Heath makes is that if the economy recovers, additional tax revenue that might have been allocated to education in that time could be freed up for other purposes.

So, as I’ve written previously, it’s easier to sell a tax increase by saying that it’s “for the kids,” when the the truth is that the money is fungible in Colorado’s General Fund, and could be spent however future legislatures see fit. Just another reason to vote no on Prop. 103.

[Updated 10/5/11]

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