Colorado voters defeated a ballot measure Tuesday that would have raised taxes in order to increase funding for the state’s public schools.
Amendment 66, which voters rejected by nearly 30 percentage points, would have generated $950 million toward school finance reform through minimal tax increases during the 2014-15 budget year. The measure would have also guaranteed roughly 42% of Colorado’s general revenue be allocated to K-12 public education.
The measure was widely supported by teachers’ unions and charter-school advocates – two groups typically at war over education reform. The amendment also had major financial support outside of the Centennial State, including from Melinda Gates and outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose total campaign contributions amounted to nearly $2 million.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper expressed his disappointment in a statement Tuesday night after the vote. “For some people Amendment 66 was only about taxes. For others it was about investing in and sacrificing for our most valuable resource: our children.”
Hickenlooper previously acknowledged that the tax hike was a “very hard sell,” but not entirely impossible. Voters in California had approved a temporary tax hike in order to finance the state’s public schools.
But support for the measure was low leading up to the election, with a recent poll showing only 38% approval. Opponents argued that the amendment would have created a two-tier tax rate – an argument made by the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity.
In a statement Wednesday, Americans for Prosperity’s Colorado State Director Dustin Zvonek celebrated the defeat. “We congratulate Douglas County residents for rejecting the school reform rollback championed by the teachers union,” Zvonek said. “The failure of union interests to win the debate, or rollback reform, has positive ramifications well beyond the Douglas county lines, since it hopefully will encourage other districts across the state to be equally creative, bold and innovative.”