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Prop. 103, single state issue on November ballot

This year’s mail-in ballot, being sent out Tuesday, Oct. 11, to registered, active voters in Archuleta County by the Clerk and Recorders Office, will include the only statewide initiative: Proposition 103.

The ballot will also include two local initiatives: Issue 1A (raising the county’s mill levy by 7 mills to raise money for road improvements) and Issue 3B (raising property taxes by approximately 10 mills in order to build new schools).

Voters in District 1 of the Archuleta School District 50 Joint will also have the opportunity to vote for candidates running for the district’s board (see related article).

In essence, Proposition 103 restores the sales and income tax rates that were in effect in 1999, returning income tax rates from 4.63 to 5 percent and sales taxes from 2.9 to 3 percent.

If passed, money raised by the increase would not be fungible, dedicated strictly towards education in Colorado, about $3 billion through 2017 (when the tax would expire) or approximately $540 worth of annual education funding per student.

Proponents of Proposition 103 point out that (according to a 2010 Census report) Colorado is currently ranked 40th in per-student spending ($8,718 average per pupil in 2008-09 compared with a national average of $10,499 per student) for K-12 education, ranked 48th in higher education funding and ranked 49th in school spending compared with the wealth of its residents, spending $33.02 on public schools for every $1,000 earned in the state.

In the meantime, relative to other states, the amount of taxes paid by Colorado residents is very low: According to a report released earlier this year by the nonpartisan Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, the state ranks second from the bottom (49th) in state taxes paid per $1,000 of income and is 44th of 45 states per $1,000 of personal income for sales taxes paid (with five states having no state sales tax).

Colorado residents pay an average of $10.86 per $1,000 of income compared to the national average of $19.68.

Opponents of Proposition 103 on the right argue that taxes are high enough and that raising taxes during a recession would potentially hinder economic growth.

Many of those opponents claim that the tax increase would eliminate 119,700 jobs by 2017, citing a study conducted by the Oregon-based Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR). However, that study actually said reported raising taxes would lead to “a reduction of 27,000 jobs” over the five years taxes were higher by .1 and .37 percent (for sales and income taxes, respectively).

The 119,700 lost jobs figure was apparently calculated on the assumption that the CSPR estimate was to be compounded annually, even though the report clearly stated that 27,000 jobs would be reduced over the lifespan of the tax hike.

On the left, opposition to Proposition 103 has been declared on two fronts. First, some opponents say that the measure does not go far enough towards funding schools and is merely a “Band-aid” or stopgap measure.

Many supporters answer that while the measure may not fund education at the level many would prefer, something is better than nothing and Proposition 103 is a good first step towards further funding for Colorado Schools.

Secondly, other opponents from the left point out that a sales tax hike is regressive and the burden is unfairly placed on the shoulders of the working poor and unemployed in Colorado. According to the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, while the top 1 percent of earners in the state pay .8 percent of their income in sales tax, the lowest quintile of taxpayers pays 5.7 percent of their income in sales tax.

Supporters of Proposition 103 not only point to the benefit the measure would have on Colorado Education, but add that the fiscal impact on Colorado families would be minimal. A calculator on the voteyeson103.com website shows that for a family making $55,735 a year (the median income in Colorado, according to the 2010 Census), Proposition 103 would amount to a total of $133 in additional taxes — about $2.55 a week.

Finally, supporters answer the charge that a tax hike would hurt the economy by pointing out that, while Proposition 103 would return state income tax and sales tax to the levels they were at in 1999, can it be said that the current economy is better off than it was before those taxes were cut?

It should be noted that for this year’s election, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has ruled that “inactive voters” — registered voters who did not vote in the last election — will not receive mail-in ballots for this year’s election.

Gessler’s decision affects more than 1.2 million voters in the state.

See the related article on Page 1 of this week’s SUN.

jim@pagosasun.com

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