Proposition 103: Sifting Through the Misinformation

Oct. 31, 2011

Stephen Collier
[email protected]

There’s been an immense amount of chatter the last couple of weeks on the only statewide tax increase initiative in the United States this year, and that’s Proposition 103.

Its aim? To raise property, sales and usage tax revenue during a 5-year period to the tune of $3 billion dollars infused into the state’s general education fund.

At last! Our state has some financial help on the way to make things better. Well, like most fairy tales, my friends, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The nasty, untold reality about Proposition 103 may be difficult to accept but is, nonetheless, important to understand: raising taxes through 2017 will do nothing to stem the rise in college tuition rates. Colorado’s top-three newspapers, the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Pueblo Chieftain, have all backed up this fact, each coming out against the proposition.

Proposition 103, as indicated by its sponsor Boulder State Senator Rollie Heath, and SGA president Jarod Gray, is nothing more than a “band aid” to the bleeding of funding coming from Denver. Colorado’s complex funding problems affect the entire gamut of K-12 and secondary education.

From the proposition’s own wording it reads, “although Proposition 103 requires that the money raised be spent on public education, it does not specify how the money is to be split between the various preschool through high school and higher education programs.”

Thus, we raise these tax dollars and give them to the state lawmakers, and from there, they ultimately decide on where the money goes. At that point, find out who donated the most money to their re-election campaign.

So what does all this mean? The likely outcome is that the vast majority of tax dollars raised would be funneled into K-12 education, with an emphasis, no doubt, on shoring up salaries and pensions. The average school district’s budget is 75-80 percent tied up in these legacy costs; I can attest to this, as my mother has been a teacher in Florida for 35 years.

But unless you missed it, we’re in an economic recession – still. It’s painful for so many out there, and now, a new tax burden will be placed on the lower and middle classes? This new tax would come at a time just when El Paso County had recorded two back-to-back months of more sales tax revenue. A tax increase will no doubt reverse these positive trends.

Even our CU Board of Regents Chairman, Kyle Hybl, is against the measure. In an Oct. 13 interview with the Boulder Weekly, Hybl said, “The question is, what does one need to do to stabilize public higher ed? I don’t think, for public higher ed, that 103 is the answer. I think its focus is more K-12 than higher ed.”

As you can see, most students aren’t getting the whole story on Prop. 103. And that’s quite troubling as so many groups out there are ready to take our money and give it to someone or something else. What our education system really needs is one simple element: time.

Our state needs time to continue to rebound from the recession, ultimately bringing more jobs and, subsequently, tax revenue from commercial, property, and sales taxes back into the state coffers.

That’s the issue, friends: the state has no additional funds. So the two schools of thought come forward: raise taxes or support economic expansion.

I chose the latter, the one option that will bring real results to our already-reeling fiscal situation. Won’t you send a message to our state leaders and vote “NO” on this proposition?

Stephen Collier, a junior