Joe Hanel, The Durango Herald

Colorado Commits to Kids volunteers carry boxes of petitions into the offices of the Colorado secretary of state in Denver on Monday. The group is asking voters to increase the state income tax to fund schools. Backers of the Colorado Commits to Kids initiative on Monday turned in signatures from more than 160,000 people in order to gain a spot on November’s ballot

DENVER – Supporters of higher funding for schools turned in petition signatures Monday to ask Colorado voters to raise their own income taxes this November.

The more than 160,000 signatures they turned in are nearly double the required 86,105 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify their plan for the ballot. Typically, around 30 percent of signatures are rejected as invalid.

Campaign organizer Gail Klapper said she is “100 percent confident” the initiative will qualify for the November election.

“You will see a strong list of bipartisan business support for this,” said Klapper, who is a director of the Colorado Forum, a business group that has been pushing for education funding for several years. “The businesses understand that without a very strong education system, they are not going to feel confident getting their workforce from our K-12 schools and colleges.”

The initiative asks voters to raise income taxes to 5 percent on earnings of $75,000 or less, and 5.9 percent on income above $75,000. Currently, Colorado has a flat 4.63 percent tax rate.

For Coloradans with a taxable income of $35,000, it would amount to a $130 tax hike.

If voters approve, the additional money will be used to fund a long list of reforms the Legislature passed this spring, including full-day kindergarten. Montezuma-Cortez schools would be the biggest beneficiaries in the Four Corners, with a projected increase of $1,400 per student if the initiative passes.

Opponents launched a campaign to defeat the initiative, called Coloradans for Real Education Reform.

“Inititative 22 is a billion-dollar tax hike that will hurt the struggling families and businesses of our state,” said Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada.

Opponents predicted the money would not reach the classroom and instead go to things like the state pension fund.

Klapper, however, said opponents need to read the school-reform bill the Legislature passed, which ensures that money can’t be diverted away from a special account for education.

Currently, the ballot question is known as Initiative 22, but it will get a new number if it is approved for the ballot.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler has until Sept. 4 to validate the signatures.

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