State Senator Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, is undaunted. As schools were being systematically defunded by the Legislature during this last session, he floated the idea of a tax increase to fund schools. Then he announced plans to take it before the voters with an initiative this November.
With many politicians in the state politely saying they would wait until its inclusion on the ballot was a certainty before they would consider an endorsement, he pressed on. Many flat out said ‘no way’.
This week he announced that his organization has collected about half the signatures it needs.
“I’ve been circulating petitions for years and I can tell you this is not a difficult signature to get,” Heath told the Colorado Independent. “People see what is happening in the schools, with schools charging for practically everything and class sizes increasing everywhere. People see it. People get it.”
He said many of his Democratic colleagues from the Legislature have joined him in circulating petitions. “We are more than on track to get this on the ballot,” he said.
Asked whether he thought people would vote for a tax increase, he said he is confident they will. “When we get this on the ballot, and we will, then the conversation will change dramatically. People will have an opportunity to put $3 billion into schools over five years, and they will do it. They think this (cutting education funding) has gone way too far.”
“Coloradans in every corner of the state are coming together to put an end to the devastating and short-sighted cuts to our schools,” Heath said. “Mothers and fathers, teachers and college students, and people from all walks of life, have spent the past month talking to their neighbors about Initiative 25, building a grassroots network that understands the need to reinvest in our kids and our future. We all know education is the key to attracting quality businesses and good-paying jobs.”
To qualify for the Nov. 1 election ballot, supporters of Initiative 25 need to submit signatures from 86,000 registered voters by Aug. 1. The campaign is aiming to collect 125,000 signatures to allow for errors in the signature-gathering process.
“Even with this early success, we aren’t resting,” Heath said. “Our campaign has already surpassed the expectations of Colorado’s political professionals, and we are on pace to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. But we can’t afford to let up. We need to work hard now more than ever to make sure we give Colorado voters the chance to put a stop to the cuts to our schools.”
Initiative 25 would raise more than $500 million a year for Colorado’s schools and colleges for five years by restoring state sales and income tax rates to 1999 levels. Taxes would return to current levels after five years.