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Two perspectives on Amendment 66

Staff Writer

The Archuleta School District will hold an election next month in which four candidates will vie for two seats on the Board of Education and voters will be asked to decide a ballot issue concerning a new tax dedicated to school funding.

To ensure readers are well informed and prepared for the election, The SUN has, for the last two weeks, introduced the four candidates. This week, we finish up the series by examining the pros and cons of Amendment 66.

The question voters will see on the ballot is, “Shall state taxes be increased by $950,100,000 annually in the first full fiscal year and by such amounts as are raised thereafter by amendments to the Colorado Constitution and the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning funding for preschool through twelfth-grade public education, and, in connection therewith, increasing the current state income tax rate on individuals, estates, and trusts and imposing an additional rate so higher amounts of income are taxed at higher rates; requiring the resulting increases in tax revenues be spent only for improvements to preschool through twelfth-grade public education; allowing all tax revenues attributable to this measure to be collected and spent without future voter approval; requiring at least 43% of state sales, excise, and income tax revenues be deposited in the state education fund; and repealing certain existing public education funding requirements?”

All the seats at a Tuesday forum were full and people were standing in the back of the room at the Extension Building as state Rep. Mike McLachlan spoke in favor of the measure and Jim Huffman spoke against it.

McLachlan:

“I believe that Amendment 66 is the best solution to Colorado’s educational funding crisis that we are facing today.

“First of all, this bill takes up the issue of early childhood education, which has not been done before in the state of Colorado. We are expanding the educational opportunities for our children for preschool from age three to five, when children go to kindergarten. Before, there have been private preschools, but this is becoming a public responsibility because we know that serious problems arise in education when children arrive unprepared.

“In addition, in the state of Colorado we do not have uniform K through twelve education. In La Plata County, where I come from, all the school districts employ full time kindergarten. It has been shown that full-day kindergarten is the best way to guarantee that when children enter the school system they are going to continue to be prepared to move forward.

“Contrary to some of the assertions that have been made against Amendment 66, you will be able to track every dollar that goes from the legislature into the achievement fund. You will be able to track for each school district. For each student in each school district you will be able to track exactly where that money goes.

“Education in Archuleta County will improve specifically. We hope Amendment 66 will result in an allocation of $1,093 more per student in your school district. You have 1,413 students in your school system currently, and when we expand pre-school and kindergarten that number will grow.

“One of the current problems with education is it’s linked to property values and property assessments, so it is very burdensome. Amendment 66 proposes a very small increased in income tax. The state legislature’s budget people have computed it, and if you make less than $75,000 per year this will cost a family of four around $193 per year. ”

Huffman:

“To describe this amendment as a scam is probably a little strong — however, I do not believe to call it a subterfuge is out of line. They are using ‘It’s for the kids’ as the slogan to pass the largest tax increase in Colorado’s history while they have $1.6 billion in the State Education Fund that they have not used to implement any reforms to improve education.

“Once this amendment is passed, whatever bills the General Assembly passes in the future, as long as they say it is to improve P-12 education, it can be funded with this money with no further vote.

“Amendment 66 replaces the existing 4.63 percent flat income tax with a two-tier scheme (a violation of TABOR). Annual taxable income up to $75,000 would be assessed at a new 5 percent rate (an increase of 8 percent for two thirds of Coloradans), while all income above $75,000 would be taxed at a considerably higher 5.9 percent (an increase of 27 percent for one third of Coloradans). And this is before the legislature adjusts the tax increase threshold once inflation starts back up!

“Does anyone here think that the legislature won’t lower the threshold to increase tax revenue when they get the chance? In the history of organized government, do you know of any governmental agency that has ever said, ‘Wait, don’t send me any more money, we have enough?’

“Coloradans currently have a medium tax burden — not a low tax burden as is being touted by proponents — but that changes with this amendment.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.