Colorado Voters Reject Tax Increase for Schools

Last Updated: November 29, 2011

This article appeared in the November 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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Colorado voters went to the polls this month to vote on a referendum to raise sales and income taxes for the state’s education budget. The proposal was rejected by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. Proposition 103 would have increased individual and corporate tax rates from 4.63% to 5% and Colorado's sales and use tax rate from 2.9% to 3% for five years. That change would have generated $3 billion for schools over the next five years.

Prop 103 was the nation’s only statewide tax vote. State Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder was the initiative’s biggest champion, but could not garner widespread support among other Democrats or education advocates. Some feared that a temporary fix could jeopardize a more permanent reform to the funding system.

Colorado schools have suffered significant cuts, and many blame those shortfalls on the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights law, which forbids lawmakers to raise taxes and requires referenda for tax increases, such as the process for Proposition 103. 

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