In November, Colorado voters will be asked if they want to use surplus tax dollars to create a savings account for education. It's a measure some say is essential for K-12 education and others say is a tax increase that leaves less money for other projects.
Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff says education is the best investment we can make in our economy, but when it comes to education, Colorado has some catching up to do.
"I think Colorado is in danger of losing good jobs to other states and other countries that educate their kids better," said Romanoff.
He says that's exactly why he drafted and put Amendment 59 on the November ballot.
"Do you want to save money when times are good, so we don't have to cut schools and other essential services when times are bad?" said Romanoff. "That's what Amendment fifty-nine would do."
Amendment 59 asks voters to eliminate constitutional limits on how much the government can collect for education. Rather than refunding those surplus dollars, the state would keep them and put them in a savings account for K-12 education. It's something some state leaders, like Senator Josh Penry, have a problem with.
"Same argument, new tax increase," said Penry. "To me it grows tiresome."
Penry says he likes the idea of a savings account, but thinks the government should use part of the state's $18 billion budget, rather than surplus tax dollars, to do it.
"The General Assembly could save money anytime it demonstrated the will to do it," said Penry.
Romanoff says that's easier said than done. The Colorado Constitution says the state government must increase spending on K-12 education each year. He says with limits on how much the government can collect, they're left with virtually no extra budget dollars. Amendment 59 would get rid of those spending requirements.
"It does address the heart of the problem, which is this fiscal mess -- the conflict between these two constitutional amendments," said Romanoff.
Penry says he also has problems with the fact the money could only be used to fund K-12 education and not other pressing issues like roads, bridges, and higher education.
"Education is priority," said Penry. "But it's one of the priorities, not the only priority."
But Romanoff says Amendment 59 does help those other projects.
"If we can protect the biggest part of our budget, public schools, from getting cut, we won't have to raid the funds for colleges and universities, roads and bridges, and health care just to keep up with schools," said Romanoff.
Penry says he's confident voters will see this a Democratic ploy to raise taxes and make government bigger. Romanoff says Coloradans know the importance of education and understand this proposal still gives them the right to vote on taxes. Come November, we'll find out who was right.
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