Opinion | Susan Knopf: Amendment 73 is good for Summit students
Constitutional Amendment 73 is endorsed by the League of Women Voters, Colorado PTA, NAACP, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Council of Churches and many others. Most of us would see little change in our current taxes, yet the amendment says it will generate $1.6 billion in new tax revenue. The revenue will come from two sources: a new graduated income tax and new fixed property taxes assessment rates. The taxes will be dedicated to proscribed education programs and cannot be rolled into the general fund. A super majority of 55 percent is required to pass the amendment.
According to the “Blue Book” (Colorado State Information Booklet) Colorado’s current 4.63 percent income tax rate would not change for 92 percent of us who make $150,000 or less. For 3 percent of Coloradans who make $150,001-$200,000 the state income tax rate goes to 5 percent. According to Ballotpedia, those folks will pay an average additional annual tax of $81. About 113,000 Coloradans who earn more than $200,000 will pay rates from 6-8.25 percent, according to Colorado Legislative Council staff. Some people are quibbling about the top tax rate being too high, but it only affects about 24,000 people. The corporate tax rate will go up 1.37 percent to 6 percent.
We talked last week about Gallagher. On March 6, 2017, Summit Daily published a great article by Randy Wyrick, of its sister paper the Vail Daily. Wyrick explains Tabor and Gallagher and how the acts work to undermine the funding of our vital government services. The property tax portion of Amendment 73 seeks to fix property tax assessments and to get off the slippery Gallagher slope that is a perennial game changer. The current residential assessment rate is 7.2 percent, Amendment 73 fixes it at 7 percent, and thus avoids next year’s anticipated Gallagher decline to 6 percent. The commercial assessment rate would go down from the current 29 percent to 24 percent.
County tax assessors don’t like it because it means they will be maintaining two different assessment rates for every property: the Amendment 73 rate for schools, and the Gallagher rate that applies to all other taxing districts (e.g. fire, ambulance). Proponents say they are trying to improve education funding.
Colorado ranks near the bottom on public school funding. Conservatives complain government inefficiency robs classroom teachers of their wages. Others say Colorado does amazingly well with comparatively low funding. Why is Colorado spending so little on K-12 education when U.S. News and World Report ranks Colorado’s economy No. 1, and per capita income ranks 12th in the nation? Wyoming spends 80 percent more per pupil than Colorado (EdWeek.org).
Opponents of Amendment 73 complain the act does not properly direct funds. If you read the Blue Book, it spells it out. The Amendment funds the Quality Public Education Fund which targets the following priorities.
1. Increases the annual statewide base per pupil funding to no less than $7,300, plus annual adjustments for inflation. The stated goal is to move toward or surpass the national per pupil funding (currently $12,526 according to EdWeek.org).
2. Funds full-day programs for all kindergarten students.
3. Increases state funding of categorical programs by no less than: $10 million for gifted and talented, $120 million for special education, $20 million for English language proficiency, plus annual inflation adjustments.
4. Increases annual state funding for preschool early education programs no less than $10 million, plus annual inflation adjustments.
5. Increases annual state funding for pupils eligible for free and reduced lunch as required under the “National School Lunch Act.”
6. QPEF specifically supplements and does not supplant current funding of education.
8. Within five years of the commencement of the QPEF, a study will be conducted to determine best practices application of the funds.
7. The Legislature is empowered to change the funding formula if it passes a new School Finance Act. Carol Hedges, executive director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute says, legislators can also adjust proscribed income tax rates in the act.
Summit School District could use these funds to educate our kids.
under the radar
Two candidates we haven’t talked about yet, worthy of your consideration, are Jena Griswold running for secretary of state, and Dave Young running for state treasurer. Our current Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, handed our voter records to President Donald Trump for his witch hunt looking for non-existent voter fraud. The records are public, but you don’t have to gift wrap it in user-friendly digital data files. Jena Griswold says she disagrees with the decision. Fifteen states refused Trump’s request!
Jena Griswold grew up working class in Estes Park. She is a lawyer and a small business owner. She says she will work vigorously to promote voter participation, increase campaign finance transparency and secure our elections from foreign interference. She is endorsed by a long list of state politicians as well as several unions.
Dave Young will be a great treasurer. He is the candidate with hands-on experience. He served in the state Legislature for seven years, four of those years on the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee. As state treasurer, Young is committed to keep $6 million in public funds invested transparently in Colorado, helping our citizens, instead of investing in big out-of-state banks. He has worked hard to keep the state’s $30 million budget balanced.
Young worked as a math teacher and was education association president, thus he is committed to guiding PERA (Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association) reform to protect our teachers and state workers. Young says PERA beneficiaries need a realistic cost-of-living increase to keep some people out of poverty. Young’s opponent Brian Watson is a CEO of a real estate investment firm with no experience with the state budget. He talks about building relationships. Young already has working relationships in the Capitol, that work for our interests.
Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident. She has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.
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