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Few love Proposition 103.
That’s not surprising, in part because no one likes paying higher taxes. Conservative voices say that, with the economy still fragile, now isn’t a smart time to add to your financial burden.
Others worry that passing Proposition 103, on the Nov. 1 ballot, will somehow thwart efforts at wider “structural” reforms needed to truly fix the state’s education budget.
There’s a measure of validity to both positions, but nothing in either argument is as compelling as the fact that Colorado funds its schools at a far, far lower level than the national average.
And the national average, folks, isn’t really a position to aspire to.
The bottom line on Proposition 103 is that while higher taxes are hardly ever welcome, the alternative is much less appealing.
If passed by voters, Proposition 103 would raise $3 billion for education partly by bumping up the state’s income tax from 4.63 percent to 5 percent. That’s the same level as it was in 1999. The tax would fall back to current levels after five years.
The proposition also would raise the state sales tax rate for five years from 2.9 percent to 3 percent, which is where it was in 2000.
Opposition forces have cited an analysis produced by the free-market policy thinkers at the Independence Institute.
“Proposition 103 will move us toward a path similar to the one taken in California, with higher tax burdens, lower economic growth, and reduced job opportunities for Colorado citizens,” their report states.
That’s the point, of course, to frighten you into a “no” vote.
But, again, they’re overlooking a much bigger, much scarier truth: our economy is in a state of constant flux. The only way to compete is to make sure the next generation of Colorado children gets the best education possible.
We can’t do that with year after year of multimillion-dollar cuts to K-12 and higher education. And we can’t wait any longer in hopes that lawmakers will hammer out longer-term fixes.
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education recently endorsed Proposition 103 during the same meeting at which members got a hint of college and university budget cuts in 2012-13.
How bad might it get? We’ll know better in early November but the early word is that those cuts could be as high as 16 percent.
Proposition 103 isn’t perfect, but is a chance for us to begin to restore the legacy of previous generations – an affordable and accessible system of education that helps us all to fulfill the American dream.