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Colorado voters reject raising taxes to support education

November 1, 2011 |  8:20 pm

Colorado schools

In what could be a harbinger of the 2012 election, Colorado voters Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have raised nearly $3 billion for education by temporarily increasing state income, sales and use taxes. 

With 59% of the projected vote counted, Proposition 103 was trailing 65% to 35%, the Associated Press reported.

The debate over the measure closely mirrored recent rancor in Washington over the question of whether more spending will revive a moribund economy or slow down a nascent recovery.

A likely swing state in 2012, Colorado is a particularly interesting place to see which argument voters cotton to. Its population is well-educated, with more than one-third of residents older than 25 holding at least a bachelor’s degree. But the state’s unemployment rate has been stuck around 8%, and a solid share of the electorate finds taxes distasteful, passing a major tax-limitation measure in 1992.

If Proposition 103 had passed, individual and corporate tax rates would have temporarily jumped from 4.63% to 5% and the sales and use tax rate from 2.9% to 3%, the Associated Press reported.

Supporters intended for the extra money to plug holes in the state’s K-12 and college education budgets, which have endured hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. Opponents said the state’s economy was too fragile to withstand higher taxes, which would have expired after 2016, and that throwing money at education wouldn’t necessarily improve its quality.

The measure's supporters were better funded than its critics, but they were frustrated by tepid support from top Democrats, including new Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said he would not back any tax hikes during his first year in office, the Associated Press reported.

Last year, historically anti-tax Oregon voters approved two measures that raised taxes on corporations and the wealthy. But Washington state voters rejected a similar measure, despite the high-profile backing of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his prominent philanthropist father, William.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers  

Photo: Students at Carmody Middle School in Lakewood, Colo., head to their buses. A statewide ballot measure asked Colorado voters whether they would pay more to generate $3 billion for education. Credit: Ed Andrieski / Associated Press

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