Colorado Voters Decide: Hike Income, Sales Taxes for Education?

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In a test of whether recession-scarred voters have any stomach for new taxes, Colorado residents will decide Tuesday whether to drum up nearly $3 billion for education by temporarily increasing state income and sales and use taxes.

The debate over the measure closely mirrors recent rancor in Washington over the question of whether more spending will revive a moribund economy or slow down a nascent recovery.

A likely swing state in 2012, Colorado is a particularly interesting place to see which argument voters cotton to. Its population is well-educated, with more than one-third of residents older than 25 holding at least a bachelor’s degree. But the state’s unemployment rate has been stuck around 8%, and a solid share of the electorate finds taxes distasteful, passing a major tax-limitation measure in 1992.

If Proposition 103 passes, individual and corporate tax rates would temporarily jump from 4.63% to 5% and the sales and use tax rate from 2.9% to 3%, the Associated Press reported.

Supporters intend for the extra money to plug holes in the state’s K-12 and college education budgets, which have endured hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. Opponents say the state’s economy is too fragile to withstand higher taxes, which would expire after 2016, and that throwing money at education won’t necessarily improve its quality.

The measure's supporters are better-funded than its critics, but they've been frustrated by tepid support from top Democrats, including new Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said he would not back any tax hikes during his first year in office, the Associated Press reported.

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