Proposition 103: Politicos underestimate voters' willingness to pay more for kids, advocate says

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Tomorrow at 11 a.m., supporters of Proposition 103, which would hike taxes to better fund schools, will rally at the State Capitol on behalf of the measure. And while most political observers doubt 103's will win the day, one advocate thinks such so-called experts are selling voters short.

"A lot of people supposedly in the know don't think this has a shot," admits Katie Facchinello, Colorado campaign director for Every Child Matters, a national nonprofit that focuses on early childhood education, the needs of abused and neglected kids, and those living in poverty. "But I don't necessarily agree with that."

As explained the Yes on 103 website, the proposition would raise Colorado sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3 percent, and its personal and corporate tax from 4.63 percent to 5 percent -- rates that would remain in place for five years. The site says these numbers correspond to tax levels "throughout the economic boom of the 1990s." Proponents like Senator Rollie Heath, the face of the campaign, estimate that Proposition 103 would generate an estimated $536 million per annum toward public education funding, with the cost for a taxpayer making $55,700 being around $150 a year.

Every Child Matters is part of what's dubbed the Great Futures coalition backing 103. As such, Facchinello has been talking to a lot of folks about the proposition, and "I get the sense that people are willing to vote for this as long as they have assurance that the money is going toward public education," she maintains. "There's some fear that the money is going to drop into an enormous pit and won't actually get there -- or that elected officials are going to be able to get around the rules."

Opponents of 103 are adding to anxieties like these by insisting that the proposition's passage could cost more than 100,000 jobs. In contrast, Facchinello thinks employment will be hurt if the measure doesn't pass.

"I think officials underestimate how much individuals connect the economy and education," she says. "People see a connection between attracting businesses to Colorado and how much we invest in education." That's why "people are willing to make the sacrifice" and pay more in taxes "as long as they know it's going to fund what they're wanting to see happen. And I've talked to both Democrats and Republicans."

Facchinello knows pushing 103 over the top won't be easy. After all, this is an off-year election, and "many people are confused about the mail-in ballot, whether they'll be able to vote, and if they're active or inactive" -- a reference to Secretary of State Scott Gessler's effort to prevent ballots being sent to some voters in Denver and Pueblo, which was recently rebuffed in separate rulings. "But this is really an education ballot. There are school board elections all over the state, which are as important on a local level as a presidential election. And with Proposition 103, people really have a chance to invest in our education system."

Click here for more information about tomorrow's event, which will feature appearances by Heath, Facchinello and many other 103 supporters. Facchinello also encourages parents and other citizens to contact her at Katie.Facchinello@tennysoncenter.org if they'd like to take part.

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