Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Campaign for One Billion Education Tax is Game Changer

The campaign to add $1 billion dollars to K-12 education funding in Colorado started its petition drive to acquire 86,160 valid signatures by August 4. Proponents believe it will be a game changer for education.
  • They will get their signatures. The education establishment is the state’s largest government industry.
  • They will spend record amounts to pass the tax.
  • But statewide taxes are difficult to pass and this will be a low turnout election.
  • There is anger at the Denver legislature’s alleged overreach and ignoring non-metro areas.
An interview with Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Statesman said:
“But local pollster Floyd Ciruli said Tuesday that ‘Colorado voters are hardly easy targets for state tax increases, and this income tax hike is major.’
Petitions for the ballot measure, known as Initiative 22, headed out on June 17. Supporters must collect at least 86,105 valid signatures by Aug. 5, a task that Ciruli opined is ‘a modest undertaking.’ 
Strong backing from the Colorado education and business community may mean a better chance of success for Initiative 22 in a statewide election than has been the history in the past few years, according to Ciruli.
The historical track record for statewide tax increases doesn’t bode well for the campaign, he said this week. ‘The presumption is against them… very few have had any luck raising taxes statewide.’ People are much more willing to support local school boards, bonds and mill levy overrides than statewide tax increases, Ciruli explained. He pointed to the effort in 2011 by Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, to ask voters to approve a measure similar to Initiative 22. The 2011 measure, Proposition 103, sought to increase income tax rates from 4.63 percent to 5 percent, but it also included a temporary increase in sales taxes. More than one million votes were cast on the issue, but voters resoundingly rejected it, 64 to 36 percent.
Heath stood alone when he announced Proposition 103, and he never gained the formal backing of the CEA, although his initiative was supported by a number of other education groups, including Great Education Colorado. But in the end it gained only 36 percent of the vote. ‘I think [Initiative 22] will gain significant support from the Democratic Party and education establishment.’ Ciruli predicted the measure would get more than 35 percent, but the question is whether it can get to 50 percent plus one. ‘History will suggest this will be very difficult.’
Another hurdle to be overcome for Initiative 22 supporters may be the ‘mini-revolt’ going on in state politics. Ciruli said that the current attitude toward what came from the General Assembly during the last session may set the theme for what the election season looks like. People are angry and may have a ‘hostile attitude toward taxes,’ he said. That anger is most visible in the recall efforts and the secession movement in northern Colorado, he added.
‘If the [Colorado Commits to Kids] campaign does a good job and turn out their voters, those who work in education or parents with students in public schools, they can potentially dominate the election,’ Ciruli said. But in an odd-year election, ‘electors are older and more conservative, and at this moment, angry.’
The campaign is off to a good start on its fundraising, and Ciruli says this should be one of the best-funded initiatives in quite a while. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if this was at least a $4 million or $5 million campaign,’ he said.” (Colorado Statesman, 7-3-13)
Indeed, the initiative will be a game changer, but less in terms of educational outcomes, which frankly only change slowly, if at all, in the public system. More importantly for the political landscape, if it wins, it will signal the new progressive era in Colorado that began in 2004 is secure and moving forward. But if it loses, it will be a major setback for Democrats and tax spending advocates. Transportation, higher education and a myriad of “needs” are waiting in line for voter approval.

The Buzz: One billion for schools: Reform or bailout?
The Buzz: November ballot will test Democrats’ and education establishment’s power

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