A proposed citizens’ initiative to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund public schools earned its way onto the fall ballot Thursday.
That measure, expected to be known as Amendment 73, calls for a gradual increase in the state’s 4.63 percent income tax rate for anyone who earns more than $150,000 a year.
That money, an estimated $1.6 billion a year, would go to K-12 education, increasing the state’s per-pupil base funding to $7,300.
Other money would be dedicated annually to special education ($120 million), English proficiency ($20 million), gifted and talented programs ($10 million) and preschool ($10 million).
“This will help us address critical needs and offer educational opportunities to all our students,” said Rob Sanders, a school superintendent in Merino in the northeast corner of the state. “We can address the growing teacher shortage crisis, fund programs for students with special needs, provide career and technical training to make high school graduates career ready, and keep students safe.”
While the measure would increase income tax rates for some, it also would freeze the residential assessment rate at 7 percent, and lower the non-residential rate that school districts are allowed to assess to 24 percent. Currently, that rate is 7.2 percent for residential property and 29 percent for businesses.
As a result, it would reduce tax revenues to school districts by about $62.4 million, but also lower property taxes for lower- and middle-income residents and small businesses, proponents said.
“This is a rural economic development plan unlike any other Colorado has experienced,” said Martha Olson, a Boulder education advocate who partly proposed the measure. “By combining tax relief for farmers, ranchers and small business property owners with investment in local communities and in a successful statewide public education system, our rural communities, those communities hardest hit over the past decade, will see a tremendous benefit from this initiative.”
Under the measure, the state’s tiered income taxes would create five tax brackets:
■ $0-$150,000: 4.63 percent (no change).
■ $150,001-$200,000: 5 percent (up 0.37 percent).
■ $200,001-$300,000: 6 percent (up 1.37 percent).
■ $300,001-$400,000: 7 percent (up 2.37 percent).
■ $400,001-$500,000: 8 percent (up 3.37 percent).
■ More than $500,000: 8.25 percent (up 3.62 percent).
Proponents said that tiered rate system will mean that about 92 percent of all taxpayers would see no change in what they pay now.
A fiscal analysis done by the Legislature’s nonpartisan staff shows that taxpayers impacted by the increase who earn less than $200,000 would pay, on average, $81 more than they do now. The super rich, those who earn more than $500,000 a year, would see a $42,528 increase in their state taxes.
The initiative, which would alter the Colorado Constitution, is the first to qualify for the ballot under new petition rules set under Amendment 71 requiring signatures to come from each of the state’s 35 Senate districts.