GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The backers of a statewide initiative to increase education funding are spending time on the Western Slope, urging voters to get on board with their cause.
If passed, Initiative 25 would increase the state sales tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3 percent and increase the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent for the next five years.
The revenue generated by the measure -- an estimated $536 million per year -- would be dedicated to public education funding in Colorado, P-12 and higher ed.
State Senator Rollie Heath, a Democrat from Boulder, is spearheading the effort. This week, he's on a tour of the Western Slope encouraging voters to support the measure.
He says over the past two years, the state has cut more than $500 million in funding to public education, putting Colorado near the bottom of the list in state funding for education.
According to data collected by publication "Education Week", Colorado ranks 40th in the country for K-12 per pupil spending and 48th in the country in state and local funding for higher education.
"Frankly, I think we're at desperate stage right now in what we're spending for education," said Heath. "So I hope people will understand that and vote yes on November 1."
He acknowledged that many won't like the idea of increasing taxes during a recession, but says jobs and economic development are dependent on a strong education system.
"Let's put it in perspective," said Heath. "Together they equal about 160 dollars a year. I don't minimize that. But when you figure what the average family with school kids is now paying in all these additional [athletic, transportation, and activity] fees, that's way more than 160 bucks. I think it's reasonable, I think it's responsive and it will put almost three billion dollars into education over the next five years."
To get Initiative 25 on the ballot, supporters must turn in 86,125 valid signatures by August 1. Heath says the group currently has about 75,000.
To learn more about Initiative 25, click on the link below listed under "Related Links."