Small business group poll: Members oppose school finance measure

Tony Gagliardi
Tony Gagliardi

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Members of a small business advocacy group responding to a poll nearly unanimously oppose a ballot initiative that would increase state income taxes to raise additional funding for public schools in Colorado.

“I don’t think there’s much doubt about it,” said Tony Gagliardi, state director of the National Association of Independent Business.

A poll asked 7,500 NFIB members in Colorado whether or not the organization should take a position on Amendment 66 and what that position should be.

While 86 percent of those who responded said the NFIB should take a position, 96 percent said the group should oppose the measure. About 10 percent of members responded to the poll, double the rate Gagliardi considers necessary for a valid sample.

The proportion of opposition to Amendment 66 was the most lopsided Gagliardi said he can recall in eight years working as state director and polling members about a range of issues.

Amendment 66 will appear on the Nov. 5 election ballot and ask voters whether or not to approve a proposed amendment to the state constitution and statutes to increase state income tax rates to raise additional funding for public education.

The measure would increase the rates on taxable income under $75,000 from 4.63 percent to 5 percent. Individuals with taxable income of more than $75,000 per year would pay a rate of 5 percent on the first $75,000 and a rate of 5.9 percent on any taxable income above that amount. It’s estimated Amendment 66 would raise $950 million in additional tax revenues a year for education.

Amendment 66 is part of a larger effort to overhaul public school financing in Colorado. Senate Bill 213 enacted earlier this year affects how the state finances individual schools. SB 213 won’t take effect, however, unless Amendment 66 passes.

Gagliardi said NFIB members oppose Amendment 66 on a number of grounds.

Given weak demand for products and services and continued uncertainty over the economy and government regulations, the timing is bad for a proposed tax increase, he said. Most small businesses constitute “pass through” entities in which owners pay individual income taxes on earnings, he added.

NFIB members also oppose the creation of a two-tier income tax rate, Gagliardi said.

Moreover, Amendment 66 includes a provision that allows “all tax revenues attributable to this measure to be collected and spent without future voter approval.” That language could lead to an end run around constitutional limits on taxation and spending without voter approval, he said.

Given the results of the membership poll, Gagliardi said the NFIB will join with other groups in campaigning against Amendment 66. “It’s going to be a collaborative effort.”

In Western Colorado, the board of directors of a coalition of businesses, government entities and individuals voted in September to approve a resolution opposing Amendment 66. The Club 20 resolution cites a number of reasons, among them the potential harmful effects of a tax increase on small businesses, the unfairness of a two-tiered tax system and a lack of assurance funding from increased income taxes won’t be used to support the Colorado Public Employee Retirement Association fund.