Colorado Education Funds Exemption Amendment (2011)

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The Education Funds Exemption Amendment, also known as the DECIDE ballot initiative, did not make it on the November 1, 2011 statewide ballot in Colorado as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. On March 24, 2010 Rep. Debbie Benefield announced she planned to propose a measure calling for voters to amend the Colorado Constitution to give lawmakers indefinite authority to raise taxes in order to cover state education costs. Currently, state law - TABOR - requires that lawmakers receive voter approval before any tax increases are enacted.[1][2]

Background

The proposal came weeks after the Colorado House of Representatives approved a "School Finance Act." The act proposes cutting $260 million from the state education fund for the FY 2010 fiscal year. According to reports, another education budget cut of $260 million is expected for FY 2011 in which the state is estimated to face a $1.3 billion budget shortfall.[3]

Support

Arguments

  • Supporters of the proposed amendment argued that class sizes have increased, school funding and programs have been cut. The proposal, they argue, would help bring more funds to education throughout the state. Rep. Michael Merrifield said,"We're asking voters to make the decision to remove from legislators the restraints imposed by TABOR on spending for education. They can say yes or no."[4]

Opposition

  • Marty Nielson, president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers and opponent of the proposed measure, said, "If this is passed, it would be an open-ended blank check for the Legislature to raise taxes." Nielson argued that should the measure be approved, there would be no way to stop lawmakers from using state funds for other programs.[4]
  • Rep. Tom Massey said, "Colorado voters approved TABOR in 1992 and now during a recession is not the time to push for a tax increase." Additionally, Massey argued that the proposal violates the spirit behind TABOR and voters should be given the opportunity to vote on tax increases.[4]

Path to the ballot

See also: Colorado legislatively-referred constitutional amendments

Two-thirds of each chamber of the Colorado General Assembly must vote affirmatively for a proposed amendment in order for it to go on the statewide ballot for potential voter ratification. On April 19, 2010 the House Education Committee approved the proposed measure after an 8-4 vote along party lines. The proposed legislation then moved to the full House.[5][6] The measure was also introduced in the Senate, as SCR 002, and was heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 29 where it was approved.[7] SCR 002 was also approved by the Senate Finance Committee after a 4-3 vote. The measure was not sent to the ballot, however.[8]

See also

Additional reading

References