Initiative 93, aimed at increasing school funding and teacher pay, makes Colorado's November ballot

Upper earners would see income tax hike

DENVER – Colorado voters will decide whether or not to amend the state constitution to raise taxes for some of the state’s top earners in order to bolster K-12 education funding and teacher salaries.

Initiative 93, also called the Great Schools, Thriving Communities ballot initiative, is the first ballot measure brought by citizens to make it onto November’s ballot.

Proponents turned in 179,390 signatures, of which 130,022 were deemed valid. They needed 98,492 valid signatures for the measure to make the ballot, or 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the 2014 election for secretary of state. Supporters needed to gather 2 percent of the signatures from each of the state’s 35 Senate districts.

Since initiative 93 is a proposed constitutional amendment, it will need 55 percent of the statewide vote in order to pass.

The initiative 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 households making over $150,000 a year. The measure would create an exemption to the state income tax; and income tax rates would increase incrementally for those above that threshold. An additional 3.62 percent tax would apply to people making more than $500,000 a year.

The Colorado Legislative Council has a breakdown of how people of various incomes might be affected.

People making under $150,000 would see “no change” in the tax rate; those making between $150,000 and $200,000 would see an average increase of $81 per year. People making between $200,000 and $300,000 would see their taxes rise by an average of $729. Those making between $300,000 and $400,000 would see their taxes rise by an average of $3,456 and people making above $500,000 per year would see their taxes go up by $42,528, on average, the legislative council said.

The corporate income tax rate would increase by 1.37 percent. Other assessment rates would change slightly as well under the measure, and state lawmakers will be able to appropriate money from a fund until a new school public finance law is written and adopted.

All of the money in the fund would go toward public schools.

The initiative gathered momentum during the teacher rallies at the Colorado state Capitol in Denver earlier this year, as signature gatherers were out in force while educators and their supporters called for higher teacher wages, better school funding and a reformed state pension system.

Denver Public Schools said Thursday that if the measure passes in November, it would invest an additional $36 million each year into teacher compensation. The district says that combined with a new agreement reached last year, teachers on average could see their wages and compensation increase by 20 percent over the next three years.

DPS also promised to increase starting teacher pay should the initiative pass, to nearly $50,000 a year in 2020 and nearly $60,000 for teachers at the schools with the highest poverty levels. The district says it would also double Priority School incentives and increase Title I incentives if the measure passes.

The district and teacher’s union said they plan to discuss how the measure could impact schools with students and parents in the coming months and anticipates seeing what happens in November before finalizing some of the other plans.

“Our top priority over the next three months is to work with teachers and the community on the potential impact of the ballot initiative,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said in a statement. “We look forward to resuming discussions and reaching agreement with our teachers once we know the outcome of the ballot measure in November.”

Six other ballot initiatives that were turned in ahead of the Aug. 6 deadline haven't been certified yet.

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