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School Funding Ballot Initiative Hits Bump in the Road

Grace Hood

Supporters of a ballot initiative to raise money for Colorado schools kicked off their campaign last week - just as the Secretary of State announced a review.

The Secretary of State’s office says the more than 160-thousand signatures collected need to be reviewed 'line-by-line' before it can go to the ballot.

In 2011 Colorado voters overwhelming rejected a tax increase for schools. Initiative 22 is much larger than that previous effort to the tune of $950-million. The money would come from changing the tax rate from 4.63% to 5% and 5.9% based on income levels.

But Governor John Hickenlooper says things are different this time around.

“The previous efforts were let’s raise taxes and we’ll spend the money wisely. 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.”

Interview Highlights…

A tax increase is still a tax increase even if you know where the money is being spent, right?

“Initiative 22 basically funds a Senate bill from the last session that changes the formula for public school financing and he (Governor Hickenlooper) doesn’t view it as a tax raise per se, he views it more as just catching up Colorado in terms of much needed education reform. However, you talk with Coloradans for Real Education Reform, however, which is comprised of some opponents including the state treasure, Walker Stapleton, and they said that it is a tax increase because it’s going raise the amount of money that the average family is going to have to pay for education. And they said it’s going to hurt small businesses and really is sort of a stick in the economy at a time when families don’t need this.”

Lawmakers referred this measure to citizens who needed to gather over 86-thousand signatures to get it on the ballot. They turned in more than 165-thousand. And now the Secretary of State says they (signatures) need to be reviewed.

Credit Colorado Statesman
Colorado Statesman

“Scott Gessler in making this ruling pointed out that state law requires the verification of each signature filed, if the number of valid signatures falls between 90% and 110% of the amount needed. Basically what that means is that there’s going to be a line by line verification because they didn’t quite reach the threshold of 110% and the office has until September 4th to complete this process.

What do supporters do in the meantime? Do they continue campaigning?

“I think they’re going to be going around the state. They’ve got a lot of support from the Colorado Education Association and from different school related organizations. But it’s interesting in Denver a couple weeks ago there was a meeting about Initiative 22 of local Denver Democrats, and there was a sizable number of people in that group – which you would think would be supportive of it – who had some questions. So I think proponents need to really get out and sell this. It’s a lot of money, and what they’ve got going for them is that it’s very specific this year, in fact, a provision includes a tracking system so everyone can see how transparent this process is but it’s still going to be a hard sell. People generally don’t like to vote for things that hit them in the pocketbook and that’s what they’re going to be faced with in November.”

Jody Hope Strogoff is the publisher of the Colorado Statesman.

Jody Hope Strogoff is the editor and publisher of The Colorado Statesman. The Statesman is a non-partisan political weekly newspaper, founded in 1898. Jody began working at the newspaper in the late 1970s, later purchasing the publication in 1988. She discusses the state’s political scene each Tuesday at 6:35 and 8:35 during KUNC’s Morning Edition.
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