4:30am

Thu October 31, 2013
Business Report

NoCo Chambers Don’t See Eye-to-Eye On Education Tax

One of two statewide issues facing voters Nov. 5 is whether to approve an increase in income taxes to help fund K - 12 schools. Most education groups support Amendment 66, which would raise nearly $1 billion a year.

But two powerful northern Colorado business groups – the chambers of commerce in Fort Collins and Loveland – are against it, says Jerd Smith, editor of the Northern Colorado Business Report.

"They oppose the measure because they believe it unduly burdens small businesses," says Smith. "They also think it provides very little oversight on how this billion a year in new annual tax revenue is going to be spent."

In contrast, the Greeley Chamber of Commerce is supporting the measure, saying the long-term benefit to the schools makes it worth endorsing.

"The return to the Greeley school district is greater than many districts," Greeley Chamber president Sarah MacQuiddy told the NCBR. "We will have a three-to-one return. When you look at the money that can be raised through Amendment 66, it just makes sense for us."

The Colorado State University Board of Governors also voted in August to endorse the measure. Even though there’s no money in the bill for higher education, CSU officials call it 'an important investment in Colorado’s education system.'

With just a few days left before the election, Smith says it’s not clear who will prevail -- or whether spending will make the difference.

"We spoke with Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli, who pointed out that there have been millions of dollars thrown behind this proposal, including $1 million each from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and [Microsoft co-founder] Bill Gates," she says. "Ciruli thinks this likely means backers believe the race is too close to call. That’s why they’ve called in the heavy-duty financial big guns, to pay for last-minute advertising and robo-calling."

The group opposed to the tax measure, Coloradans for Real Education Reform, has raised just under $11,000.

Amendment 66 would raise the state individual income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on the first $75,000 in income, and to 5.9 percent on income of more than $75,000.

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