BRECKENRIDGE - The Summit Board of County Commissioners threw its weight behind Proposition 103 Tuesday, but the measure has gotten mixed reviews from the community and has few fans in the Republican Party.
The only statewide question to appear on the Nov. 1 ballot will ask Colorado voters whether state income and sales taxes should be increased for the next five years to fund K-12 and higher education and help shield both from future budget cuts.
If Proposition 103 is approved, Coloradans will see a .37 percent (from 4.63 to 5 percent) increase in corporate and personal income taxes and a .1 percent (from 2.9 to 3 percent) increase in state sales taxes. The hikes are expected to generate $3 billion over five years, to be earmarked for education.
The Summit BOCC publicly backed the measure, with a resolution citing significant state funding cuts felt by the Summit School District, which have impacted "the district's ability to provide meaningful educational opportunities for all students."
Commissioners unanimously adopted the resolution.
"Colorado does rank toward the bottom of the barrel for public education for per pupil funding and teacher salaries," Commissioner Dan Gibbs said prior to his aye-vote on the resolution supporting Proposition 103. Gibbs noted states like Nebraska and Wyoming spend thousands more per student than Colorado does.
But members of the Republican Party statewide have taken a stance against what they call a "job-killing" proposal, and many in Summit County are with them.
In a Summit Daily online survey, 70 percent of nearly a thousand respondents said they plan to vote "no" on the measure.
"Colorado's economy is growing less than 1 percent," Summit County Republicans chairwoman Debra Irvine stated in a recent release. "Proposition 103 will increase the general fund by approximately 7 percent. Some economists estimate the total cost per household between $2,169 and $2,711 and could cost Colorado up to 11,600 jobs. This is not the time to place additional burdens on our families and hinder job and business growth."
Though Gov. John Hickenlooper publicly vowed to veto any legislative action that attempts to undermine the intent of the initiative, should the measure pass, those opposed still suggested the money could be spent on other things and questioned the wisdom of a tax hike that isn't attached to education reform.
"The biggest concern is that, while they're going around talking about how the tax increases will be designated for education, the bill does no such thing," Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call said. "All this does is add additional revenue to the general fund. Without addressing reforms to education you're just throwing more money at a system that is crying out for reform."
Still, supporters hold the additional funding would protect Colorado's education system from a fourth year of deep cuts, which they say have resulted in larger class sizes, teacher layoffs, fewer educational opportunities and rising college tuition and fees.
In Summit County, cuts in education funding have led to the elimination of programs and the school resource officer position in recent years.