Letter: Support a temporary emergency tax to stave off funding cuts
As state lawmakers reconvene, at the forefront of their work is the need to make very painful budget cuts. The most recent revenue forecast indicated a funding shortfall of about $3.3 billion for the next fiscal year, which amounts to approximately 25% of the state general fund.
Budget cuts of this magnitude will be devastating and there is no area that will go untouched. Higher education — already reeling from years of cuts — will face very difficult decisions about how to continue serving students. Our rural hospitals that are more critical now than ever, will struggle to keep their doors open if state funding is gutted. Cuts to our K-12 public school system — which serve as the backbone of our society and economy, and are already underfunded by more than half a billion dollars — will result in larger class sizes, more costs passed on to parents, teachers being furloughed or let go, and fewer opportunities overall for students.
Funding cuts will create a ripple effect of years’ worth of devastating consequences for Colorado from which we will not quickly recover. Budget analysts predict continued budget shortfalls in the next few years due to the long-term impact of decreased state revenue, lag in sales and income tax, and a decrease in local property taxes in FY 2021-22. Our most vulnerable and at-risk communities are already suffering, and urgent action is needed to help stave off the worst impacts of an economic recession unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes.
There is another option that will prevent immediate cuts. Our Colorado Constitution allows legislators to pass a temporary emergency tax with two-thirds majority support from the state House and Senate. By passing a temporary emergency tax provision, we could help avoid the most catastrophic funding cuts, while providing agencies an opportunity to thoughtfully plan for sustainable solutions and make budget modifications that reflect the new economic reality.
If ever there was a time for lawmakers to utilize this emergency clause in the Constitution, it’s right now. Contact your state representative and senator today and urge them to pass a temporary emergency tax. Voters value services like schools, roads, and health care and need these services now more than ever.
Although this pandemic has caused unimaginable pain and challenging circumstances, there is a way to start charting a path forward that will protect the most essential services all Coloradoans depend on now and in the future — our K-12 public schools and other public services. Contact your legislators today and ask them to support a temporary emergency tax so that we can begin to move towards recovery as a state.
Bret Miles, Executive Director, Colorado Association of School Executives
Cheri Wrench, Executive Director, Colorado Association of School Boards