Low-tax claim depends on how you look at it
Editor’s note: Now through the Nov. 5 election, the Journal is examining common claims made in ballot campaigns.
By Joe Hanel
Journal Denver Bureau
Campaign: Amendment 66, an income-tax increase for public schools.
Claim: “When state and local taxes are combined, Colorado ranks 6th lowest” in the country for tax burden.
Who is saying it: The pro-66 campaign on its website, coloradocommits.com.
Similar to statistics on school budgets, numbers can be manipulated in many ways to make Colorado look like either an average-tax state or a low-tax state.
The statistic cited by the Yes on 66 campaign comes from the U.S. Census, and it measures state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income. Colorado citizens on average do indeed pay less of their income than people in all but five other states, according to the Census.
Fairly high incomes in Colorado account for the state’s low ranking.
It’s another story when tax statistics are looked at in different ways.
Tax opponents prefer to measure Colorado based on its taxes per person, not per $1,000 of income. Using the same Census data, the Independence Institute finds Colorado’s combined state and local taxes, per person, rank 26th nationally. State taxes per person are low (ranking 40th) but local taxes are much higher (ranking seventh).
The bottom line: Colorado’s combined state- and local-tax collections rank slightly below the national average. But because of relatively high incomes here, Coloradans have more money left in their pockets after paying taxes than residents of most other states, according to Census statistics.