Many of you already know that Governor John Hickenlooper has proposed a $375 million cut to education funding. In theory, I can understand the rationale behind it; after all, education spending is currently tying up 40% of Colorado’s budget and after spending some time trying to balance the budget myself using Colorado Backseat Budgeter, I can certainly understand the predicament that faces Gov. Hickenlooper. However, in practice, it doesn’t appear that anyone’s given much thought to a way to address the widespread and severe consequences that these cuts are going to have on teachers, students, parents and staff; for example, according to the Colorado Education Association, around 5,500 teachers could lose their jobs because of these cuts. Apparently, “job creation” has taken a buzzword backseat to “reduce spending.”
There are no easy fixes to the situation that approaches us, but I have to give Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) credit for trying. Recently, Heath proposed a controversial citizen’s initiative tax increase that would do the following: -Increase individual and corporate income tax rates to 5 percent from the current 4.63 percent.
– Increase the state portion of sales and use taxes to 3 percent from 2.9 percent.
– Earmark spending of revenue from the increases for K-12 and higher education.
– Start the higher rates on Jan. 1, 2012, and end them on Dec. 31, 2014.
It’s hard to find a person on either side of the political spectrum that agrees with Sen. Heath’s proposal; in fact, only 10 Democrats put their support behind Heath when he proposed the initiative on February 28th. However, this plan strikes me as a good compromise. Yes, it’s more money out of voter pockets at a time when no one really wants to spend, but is there ever a time when people want to spend money? The old adage about voting with one’s wallet comes to mind here: as someone who is passionate about education, I would be willing to consider this initiative, even though it means slightly less money in my own bank account, approximately .37% less, to be exact.
I can understand the criticisms that many lawmakers have raised about this issue; people just do not want to spend more money, and the initiative is just a temporary fix anyway, something that Heath made a point to emphasize.KDVR covered this story and House Majority Leader, Amy Stephens R-Monument, had this to say; “We’re not going to tax our way into prosperity. There is no appetite for taxing Colorado families who are trying to balance their budgets, find work and send their kids to school.”
However, I was hoping for a more salient argument from the opposition than, “people won’t want to do this”, or at the very least, a better suggestion. At a time when everyone else is arguing and wringing their hands, I respect Sen. Heath for attempting to put more options on the table. Is it a perfect solution? Absolutely not, and I think Sen. Heath would agree with that criticism as well. But it’s a constructive suggestion in a climate where there seems to be a dearth of helpful attitudes. It’s a start. I look forward to hearing (hopefully) substantial, meaningful debate on this issue and other ways to solve our budgeting issues so that Colorado’s students can get the funding they deserve to keep our state’s schools among the best in the country.