Proponents of an education ballot measure became the first of many who will turn in petition signatures for proposals they hope will make it to Colorado’s November ballot.
Backers of the “Great Schools, Thriving Communities” ballot measure turned in what they said were between 170,000 and 180,000 signatures in 61 boxes just after 2 p.m.
This is also the first ballot measure to file petition signatures under stricter requirements for changing the Colorado Constitution and approved by voters in the 2016 election.
That ballot measure was known as “Raise the Bar” and after voter approval was designated Amendment 71. It requires backers of initiatives that intend to change the state constitution to gather signatures in all 35 of Colorado’s state Senate districts. Signatures also must be collected from 2 percent of all registered voters in each Senate district.
The latter requirement — the 2 percent — was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court judge last March. However, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to remain in place while the lawsuit is pending.
Current law requires an initiative to obtain 98,492 valid signatures to get onto the ballot.
To get into the state Constitution, the ballot measure must win 55 percent voter approval under Amendment 71, up from the 50.01 percent that existed prior to the passage of Raise the Bar.
Martha Olson, one of two proponents for Initiative 93, aka Great Schools, Thriving Communities, told Colorado Politics Wednesday that the initiative drew 1,500 volunteers and that they got the required signatures in the 35 Senate districts.
If certified by the secretary of state, the measure would ask voters with incomes of $150,000 or more for a state income tax increase totaling $1.6 billion annually that would be exclusively dedicated to public school funding. “More than 90 percent of Coloradans would not be impacted” by the amendment, Olson said.
The initiative also would require the Colorado General Assembly to come up with a new school finance formula within five years of the amendment’s adoption. An interim committee of the General Assembly already has been meeting for more than a year on that effort.
An issue committee backing the proposal has collected nearly $380,000 to campaign to put the measure on the ballot; the biggest donors have been the Colorado Education Association teacher union, at $100,420 as of June 27; Stand for Children, a pro-school choice group from Oregon, at $55,000; and the Colorado Fiscal Institute, at $30,000.
As the petitions were being delivered to the Secretary of State’s office, a former state lawmaker announced he was forming an issue committee that would fight what is expected to be several ballot measures that seek voter approval to raise taxes.
Former state Rep. Jim Kerr, Republican of Littleton, said Wednesday he was forming “Don’t Turn Colorado into California,” a group that he said would “do battle against proposed big government measures and tax increases” that could show up on the November ballot.
“I’ve dedicated my years of public service to limited-government, fiscal responsibility and shining a bright light on government waste, fraud, and abuse,” Kerr said in a statement Wednesday. “Colorado is getting more and more expensive, and with every tax increase, Colorado becomes less hospitable to people who work for a living. I don’t want Colorado to become California.”
Kerr’s statement added that the impetus behind the group was the Great Schools, Thriving Communities ballot measure.
“I love to call Colorado home,” Kerr said. “I also know that there is a limit to the regulation and taxes average Coloradans will put up with before voting with there feet and moving someplace else. I don’t want that. I want Colorado to continue to be a place where blue-collar families can pay the bills and call home.”
The issue committee also intends to fight other ballot measures, which could include raising taxes for transportation, a proposal backed by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Contractors Association.
Those petitions, and all other petitions for ballot measures intended for the November general election, are due on Aug. 6.