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Hickenlooper Kicks Off Initiative 22 Push, Gessler Reviewing Signatures

Bente Birkeland

Governor John Hickenlooper helped kick off the ballot campaign for Initiative 22 Thursday. The goal is ask voters to raise income taxes to pay for K-12 schools this fall.

Supports of Initiative 22 say it could be a game changer for schools.

The proposal would raise about a billion dollars by increasing income taxes with a two tiered rate. Income over $75,000 would be taxed in the higher tier.

“I recognize it will be very hard to pass, it’ll be close,” said Governor Hickenlooper. “But I’ve always trusted that if you give Coloradans the facts, the real facts, they’ll come up with the right decision.”

Two years ago voters overwhelmingly struck down a tax increase for schools, but Hickenlooper says this initiative is different.

"...I've always trusted that if you give Coloradans the facts, the real facts, they'll come up with the right decision."

“The previous efforts were let’s raise taxes and we’ll spend the money wisely,” said Hickenlooper. “People don’t like that. Every dollar is spelled out. In communities that need it, it’s longer school days and years, early childhood education."

For instance, the measure would allow every child in the state to receive full day kindergarten. Others say it would be a major tax hike for little reform.

“There’s nothing here [that] really changes pay for performance,” said John Caldera with the conservative Independence Institute. “There’s nothing here that makes it easier to fire a bad teacher or to pay a good teacher more. There’s nothing here that helps with tax credits or charter schools. I’d say it’s time to raise expectations, not taxes.”

Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced Friday that the signatures submitted by the backers of Initiative 22 would require ‘line-by-line’ review. Gessler’s office started a random sample review once they received the 165,706 signature petition on Aug. 5.

Of the sample (5 percent), they found 4,645 valid and 3,641 invalid signatures. The Secretary of State has until Sept. 4 to complete the review. In an emailed statement, Gessler’s office is presuming that the petition will surpass the number of signatures required to be placed on the ballot.

The question will be one of the major statewide issues facing voters in November. The other is a tax of another kind - taxing the sale of recreational marijuana.

Update 1:13 p.m. - The Colorado Commits to Kids campaign has responded to the Secretary of State's announcement of the 'line-by-line' review. Campaign Director Andrew Freedman says in an emailed statement:

“We turned in nearly double the required number of signatures, and the random sample suggests we have collected more than enough to qualify for the ballot. We look forward to that announcement before Sept. 5 and will continue building support for the initiative to make Colorado a national leader in public education.”

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