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Colorado's Amendment 73 would increase teacher pay, hike taxes on specific group of earners

Posted: 5:30 PM, Oct 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-23 01:28:52Z

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DENVER – A proposed constitutional amendment on November’s ballot would increase the income tax rate for families making $150,000 or more a year and put that money towards state education. It also raises taxes on many businesses.

Since Amendment 73 a proposed constitutional amendment, it will need 55 percent of the statewide vote in order to pass.

The proposed amendment lays out a new formula and series of changes to various tax rates and appropriations that would result in a $1.6 billion annual state tax increase that will go toward preschool and K-12 funding.

The income tax increase will only apply to individuals making more than $150,000 a year. The proposed amendment would create an exemption to the state income tax; and income tax rates would increase incrementally for those above that threshold.

People making under $150,000 would see no change in the tax rate . Ninety-two percent of tax filers will not see an increase in their income tax, according to the Colorado General Assembly’s non-partisan Legislative Council.

Property tax rates were projected to drop from 7.2% to the low six-percent range next year, but if Amendment 73 passes, the rate will be frozen at 7%.

Several school districts have pledged to use much of the money to improve teacher pay. In Jefferson County for example, the district’s school board voted on a resolution to increase new teacher pay as much as 10 percent if Amendment 73 passes.

A new poll released Monday by the University of Colorado’s American Politics Research Lab found 58 percent of those polled were in favor of the amendment, though the poll was from a sample of registered voters only and done online, meaning its weighting is somewhat atypical for a poll this close to the election.

Still, many people are eyeing the measure as a possible solution to what some in Colorado education have pushed for all year: better teacher pay and better school funding.

THOSE IN FAVOR

Many teachers, such as fifth-grade educator Rachel Sandoval, who teaches at Denver Public Schools’ Godsman Elementary, say they are in favor of the measure. She rents a room in a two-bedroom house, along with two other roommates. She says on her current salary of $43,000 a year, she cannot afford to buy a house in Denver. Sandoval said she took a $20,000 pay cut when she left a corporate accounting job in 2014 and decided to become a teacher.

Jefferson County Schools Principal Michael James says he has trouble attracting and retaining teachers. Starting salaries for teachers at Jefferson Junior/Senior High School, where he works, are usually in the mid-to-upper $30,000 range. James says some prospective educators have laughed when he tells them how much the job pays.

Attorney Roberta Ritvo, of Denver, who has no kids and made more than $150,000 last year is also in favor of the measure. She says society benefits when we have an educated wave of people to enter the workforce.

THOSE OPPOSED

Former educator Michael Fields, who is now the executive director of Colorado Rising Action, a conservative group in Colorado. He says teachers deserve a raise but says Amendment 73 doesn’t spell out how the money will be used. He says he worries it will be a blank check without districts having to prove that more money is making students smarter. He feels the state should focus on fixing the educator pension system.

Luke Ragland is a conservative and president of Ready Colorado, a conservative organization with a mission to improve education in Colorado. The group wants more accountability from districts to parents and taxpayers, its website says. Because Amendment 73 raises taxes on large businesses, Ragland says he worries about its effect on Colorado’s economy. The amendment would also have the effect of hiking many small business owners’ taxes based on the way most owners file their income taxes and consider business income as personal income. He believes business owners will have less opportunity to create wealth.

THOSE WITH OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Social media users, such as Steve Green, have been offering alternatives on the Denver7 Facebook page. He wants education funding to come from property taxes which have traditionally funded education.

Donna Miller said she thinks seniors have paid their fair share and suggested seniors get a break from taxes to fund schools after seniors turn 65.

YOUR OPINION

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