Post Independent opinion: Give state schools a funding bridge with Prop. 103
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Colorado voters have the opportunity to throw a lifeline to school districts across the state by approving Proposition 103, a five-year funding bridge that will help the state avoid more rounds of severe education funding cuts.
Quality education, from preschool to college, is too important to the economy and well-being of our state to resist this reasonable proposal.
Prop. 103 would raise corporate and personal income tax rates from the present 4.6 percent to 5 percent, and raise state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3 percent, generating about $530 million per year.
Look at it this way: Income taxes for a household earning $60,000 would go up $240 a year. The sales tax on a $100 item would go up by a dime.
And it’s just a bridge. Prop. 103 would sunset after five years, running from 2012 through 2016. It would take voter approval of another ballot question for the higher tax rates to extend beyond 2016.
Prop. 103 revenues would offset shortfalls in the state education spending for K-12 schools and for public colleges and universities. State budget forecasters are already predicting that 2012 will bring another round of cuts to education: $200 million to $300 million for K-12 schools. With Prop. 103 funding, those cuts wouldn’t be necessary.
Some critics question whether the funding could really be isolated and spent only on education. It must. The ballot question specifically requires the state Legislature to use all funds from the incremental tax increases “only for the cost of public education.”
And what about the interplay between Prop. 103 and the mill levy override questions being presented to voters in our three local school districts?
In one sense, each serves as a safety net to the other. If local measures and the state measure all pass, school districts may be able to undo some of the more damaging cuts of the past year, adding back teaching and custodial positions, investing in building energy efficiency, and buying up-to-date textbooks and materials.
What Prop. 103 achieves, however, is a funding bridge for every single school district in the state, whether or not they ask for or win a mill levy override.
Plenty of mill levy supporters have made strong points about the value of quality schools in building a strong local economy and making sure our communities remain attractive to new residents and business.
What’s equally important to remember is the product we are all paying for: an educated society. It’s not about your kid or my kid. It’s about educating all kids so today’s youngsters will be ready to run businesses, work technical jobs in health care, energy, manufacturing and other sectors, and provide the goods and services that make our lives comfortable.
Prop. 103 is a modest means of shoring up public education in Colorado, and we urge a yes vote.
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