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Hickenlooper commits to campaign for $950 million school tax hike

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Gov. John Hickenlooper is doubling down on his support of a $950 million tax hike that would pay for the state’s school finance overhaul.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Hickenlooper said he would advocate for passage of the proposed two-tiered income tax by participating in discussions, talking with opponents and, if needed, making television and radio appearances.

Hickenlooper said while tax increases may not be popular, the proposed November ballot measure would pave the way for needed reforms. Reforms, he said, have garnered attention and support from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“There have been a number of other tax increases that have been proposed and we have resisted it but, in this case, I think the benefits far outweigh the costs of increased taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s a chance for Colorado to be the No. 1 state for public education in the U.S.”

Duncan stood by the reforms outlined in Colorado’s school finance overhaul Thursday in a telephone interview.

“The governor is trying to make a very significant play here to make a huge investment in education and wants to make sure that the state is not investing in the status quo but in a vision of reform,” Duncan said. “This is sort of the crux of the debate the country is having: ‘Do we view education as an expense? Or do we view it as an investment?'”

Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 213, a school finance overhaul, into law in May, but his support of the tax that would fund it was not clear until last week when members of the Colorado Forum, a group of business and civic leaders, shared comments he made to the group with the media.

He is now elaborating on those comments, saying the proposed ballot initiative would pay for measures that would, among other things, increase access to pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten and offer additional money for special-education programs. And, he said the legislation would make school districts more transparent.

Hickenlooper said he gathered his thoughts on the proposed ballot measure for the first time last week when he met with the Colorado Forum.

The tax proposal must garner 86,105 signatures by registered Colorado voters by Aug. 5 to secure a place on the ballot.

The measure would set a flat-tax rate of 5 percent for all taxable income up to $75,000 a year and raise that rate to 5.9 percent for any income earned above that amount.

Colorado’s current income tax rate is a flat 4.63 percent.

“I obviously wanted the lower, flatter tax increase there could be, but, in the end, if you’re going to support something, it’s got to have a chance of winning, and the flat tax just wasn’t going to win,” Hickenlooper said. “The two-step tax, I think, does have a chance of winning.”

Colorado Republican Committee spokesman Owen Loftus called the governor’s support of the initiative “mind-boggling.”

“It’s amazing that as we are just trying to get out of a recession, the governor is going to push a $1 billion tax increase on every single working family, on every single business owner and every senior citizen in the state of Colorado,” Loftus said.

Zahira Torres


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  • comment avatar Regina July 19, 2013

    A lot of interesting stuff here…I think we’re 48th in funding public education among US states yet HIck claims this tax increase will make us #1 (or just that throwing more money at our failing school system will somehow make us #1?)

    But what exactly are these “reforms” we’ll be paying for? I mean, “reform” is mentioned six times in the first four paragraphs, so what are the reforms?

  • comment avatar Marta July 19, 2013

    we are at the bottom of the list when it comes to funding public education and have a failing school system as a result it’s hard to argue that we don’t need to increase our investment in public education.

  • comment avatar Jamie July 19, 2013

    The reality check is that neither independently run charter schools (which are almostl entirely non-union) – or the once touted for-profit contract schools (like Edison, supposedly run by Wall Street’s “best and brightest”, and once with a substantial presence in Denver), have ever found any great efficiences to had compared to public schools, nor any way to significantly improve performance at current levels of funding.

    And, actually, the high-performing charters that you hear about, like DSST and KIPP, are having $3,000 – $4,000 extra in per-student funding being “thrown” at them by private sector donors, so that they have far more to spend than regular public schools.

  • comment avatar Ben July 19, 2013

    I’m not opposed to reforms or supporting public education more, some of that stuff, like allowing more children into preschool, are very good ideas. Apparently some of the at-risk student redefinitions have caused controversy because they aim to help children who are English as a second language. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t help them if they are kids in your community or state. Anyway, we’re kind of a laughing stock of the nation on education.

    The only thing I haven’t seen broken out is exactly why they need this amount of money. I get it, programs, reforms, but how does it add up? Where does the money go, and is it used effectively and efficiently? “Trust us.” isn’t convincing enough for some of your constituents, they want to be convinced the money is being spent wisely. Assuming it is, I’m all for this.

  • comment avatar Kara July 19, 2013

    Problem is they’ll be back for more money right after this. Never ending cycle of asking, getting, and wasting the money. Bottomless pit. Always money being sucked from every source to fund education, even non-related product taxes. It’s not going to education–it’s going to fund an ever bigger education bureaucracy. Let’s face it, it’s also funding higher pay and benefits. I doubt very little of this would ever reach the students.

  • comment avatar Brianna July 19, 2013

    IF approved, where is the money going to go? The General fund that does not guarantee it will go where intended and where it can be pilfered for any pet project some politician wants? Hick and co. have a lot of questions to answer before anyone should even consider voting yes on this.

  • comment avatar EJo July 19, 2013

    Considering we spend about $90,000 per student to graduate them and DPS has around a 50% dropout rate do you think DPS has been good stewards with the publics money?
    Considering most of the drop outs are poor is it fair to say that DPS and most public schools doesn’t care about the poor? Is it fair to say if they did care they have proven that they can not educate poor kids with any sort of consistency? It seems that once they collect our tax check they stop caring about educating our future.
    It just shocks me that we continue to let state run schools fail our most vulnerable citizens.

  • comment avatar eric ernst July 19, 2013

    Ole Huckenlooper, is at it again….
    as mayor of Denver he NEVER MET A TAX INCREASE, he didn’t like! KNOWN as the “Pidepiper of Taxes”.
    Between the gun grabbing fiasco,tax increases,NO LEADERSHIP,Civil Unions,it is TIME to REMOVE Huckenlooper from office…ASAP!
    **YOU VOTERS,primarily the out of state fruitcakes,escapees and refugees, that moved here, NEED TO BE SO ASHAMED for what you have wrought on Colorado, by voting this parasitic microbe into office!
    …LIKE Huckenlooper, YOU ALL need to go back under whatever rock, in whatever state/toxic wasteland you came from!!

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