Colo. Tax Vote Pits Business Leaders Vs. Education
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's go next to Colorado, where voters decide whether to temporarily raise state sales and income taxes to help fund schools. As Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC reports, Proposition 103 has set off a battle between business leaders and education interests.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Barometer, gauge, whatever you want to call it, one thing's for sure: Debate around Colorado's Prop 103 has seemed like a microcosm to the much larger national conversation going on about taxes.
VICTOR MITCHELL: People are strapped right now, and we cannot afford $3 billion taken out of the private sector and moved into government. We just can't afford it.
SIEGLER: Victor Mitchell is a former Republican state lawmaker and businessman who founded several successful wireless companies, here. He says the tax increases would hit businesses at the wrong time and deter them from adding jobs. Colorado's unemployment rate is above eight percent, and a recovery still seems a long ways out. But Democratic State Senator Rollie Heath says the long-term health of a state's education system is also important for businesses. Heath introduced the measure after lawmakers cut more than $200 million from the state's K-12 budget this year, and even deeper cuts could come next year.
STATE SENATOR ROLLIE HEATH: There is no greater economic development driver to bring companies and to bring jobs and to bring key individuals to this state than education.
SIEGLER: Heath has the backing of some prominent education unions, but he's struggling to build support in his own party. In fact, the Democratic governor has said Coloradans just don't have an appetite for tax increases this year. For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler, in Denver.
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