The Longmont Times- Call
Victoria A.F. Camron
October 2, 2013
LONGMONT -- Two former state senators -- one Democrat, one Republican -- who describe themselves as moderates are opposing Amendment 66 because it will devastate the state budget and hurt taxpayers.
Bob Hagedorn, an Aurora Democrat who served in the Colorado Legislature from 1992 to 2008, and Norma Anderson, a Lakewood Republican who served from 1987-1998, then from 1999-2005, visited the Times-Call on Wednesday to voice their concerns about the ballot measure.
Amendment 66, if voters approve it, would increase income taxes to finance school reform that the Legislature passed last spring.
Anderson said the proposal is badly written because it moves 43 percent of the state's general fund -- its operating budget -- to the state's Education Fund, where it would have to be spent on expanding preschool and full-day kindergarten, support for English-language learners and other specifics.
What it does
Raises an estimated $950 million for K-12 education in the first year through an increase in Colorado income taxes. For 2013-14, the state budgeted $3.55 billion; there were 863,561 students enrolled in October 2012.
Early childhood education: Full-day kindergarten will be available for any child who wants to attend. More low-income student will be able to attend preschool.
English language proficiency: Amendment 66 would extend funding for English-language learners to five years from the current two years. This year, the state budgeted $15.2 million for about 100,000 students -- an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the cost.
Special education programs: Amendment 66 would increase spending by $80 million, nearly 50 percent more than the $157.2 million allocated this year for the state's 88,000 students.
Gifted and talented education: Funding would increase to about $16.6 million from the current $9.6 million for about 63,000 students. Of that, $1 million would be allocated to identifying gifted and talented students.
What it costs
Income tax rates would increase to 5 percent on the first $75,000 of taxable income and to 5.9 percent on taxable income above $75,000, from a flat rate of 4.63 percent.
What you would pay:
A resident who earns $56,278 -- the median household income in Longmont in 2010 -- would pay $1,756 per year, up from $1,626, an 8 percent increase.
A resident who earns $100,000 a year would pay $3,365 per year, up from $3,116, also an 8 percent increase.
A resident who earns $150,000 a year would pay $5,856 per year, up from $5,125, a 14 percent increase.
That means the Legislature would have to fund the School Finance Act, which provides nearly all Colorado school districts with their basic operating budgets, as well as transportation, prisons and everything else the state pays for, from 57 percent of the general fund, Anderson said.
"It just annihilates the state budget," she said.
"It's a major, major error in drafting," said Anderson, who also said that she has consulted an attorney about the proposal's language. "They did not realize they made a mistake."
The amendment's supporters, however, said that Anderson is wrong.
If Amendment 66 passes, Senate Bill 213 goes into effect, creating a new school finance act that will go into effect in 2015.
The revenue from the general fund and the income-tax increases would go to the Education Fund because it is constitutionally protected, said Damion LeeNatali, a staff member with Colorado Commits to Kids, the organization supporting Amendment 66. Those funds can then be used for the School Finance Act, he said.
"That's what we would be doing if we pass Amendment 66," LeeNatali said.
Anderson and Hagedorn also said they are concerned about how the tax increase would affect residents who already are living paycheck to paycheck and those who were displaced by last month's historical flooding.
"It's on the backs of working people and seniors," Hagedorn said.
They also pointed out that the proposal would further tie legislators' hands regarding the state budget.
"We have lots of ... bridges that need to be replaced," a need made more urgent by the flood, Hagedorn said.
An income-tax increase also could hurt the state's fragile economy, he said.
"It's not the time," Hagedorn said.
"They can come back with a better proposal next year," she said.