EAGLE COUNTY — Coloradans will not increase their income taxes to increase education funding, voters decided Tuesday.
Amendment 66 was defeated statewide, with almost two-thirds of Colorado’s registered voters saying “no.” In Eagle County, it lost by a large margin.
Of the 27,609 active voters in Eagle County, around 12,000 people cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.
“It looks like we will have a record turnout for an odd year election,” said Teak Simonton, Eagle County Clerk and Recorder.
The $1 billion tax increase would have funded an overhaul for the state’s K-12 education and cleaned up Colorado’s archaic education funding formula.
“We will not be disheartened. We look forward to continuing the work we’ve been doing the last two years,” said Wendy Rimel, of the Education Foundation of Eagle County, a proponent of the tax. “We’ll just be more creative and innovative in what we do.”
The foundation and its members campaigned tirelessly for Amendment 66.
The money, or lack of it, doesn’t change the mission, and the mission is clear, Rimel said.
“We are still challenged. The U.S. ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math,” Rimel said. “We will continue to rally to create the changes we feel need to be made to prepare our children to compete in a global marketplace in the 21st century.”
Opponents voice approval
Local opponents said amending the state constitution to levy a new tax was too much.
“To amend the state constitution for tax reasons isn’t something that should be considered ever,” said Kaye Ferry, head of the Eagle County Republican party. “People are not going to be able to pass a tax initiative unless they’re very specific about where the money is going.”
Eagle County’s schools would have received an additional $4.3 million in education funding.
However, opponents argued that while Colorado’s economy is improving, it’s still too fragile to absorb a tax increase, especially on small businesses, where most jobs are created.
“This large tax increase would have had negative effects on the economy of Colorado. In particular, this will increase taxes on small businesses filing through the individual income tax code and low- and middle-income taxpayers,” said Elizabeth Malm with the Tax Foundation, one of the groups that actively campaigned against Amendment 66.
Amendment 66 would have generated an estimated $950 million in its first year and more each year if Colorado’s economy continues to improve. The money would have funded changes to Colorado’s education system, passed by Colorado lawmakers last spring in Senate Bill 213.
A Colorado State University study projected that while the package would have increased employment in education-related sectors, it would lead to 11,531 lost jobs.
“We congratulate Coloradans for having the common sense to reject this unnecessary and unjustified tax grab,” said Dustin Zvonek, Colorado state director for Americans for Prosperity. He called it an “arrogant overreach” by the governor and other “liberals.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.