Business support is spotty for Amd. 66

Despite new endorsement, backers mostly neutral

DENVER – A proposed tax increase for schools picked up the support of a pro-education business group Tuesday, but the state’s major business groups either stand opposed or neutral toward Amendment 66.

Colorado Succeeds President Scott Laband said the economic benefits of a better school system outweigh concerns about higher taxes.

“This is our future workforce pipeline and the best way to improve our state’s economy,” Laband said.

Still, the location of the Colorado Succeeds news conference highlighted the lack of support from other business groups.

The announcement was made in the same building that houses the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce – a powerhouse business group that often is allied with Gov. John Hickenlooper.

This time, the Denver chamber is staying neutral. Other groups, like the Western Slope’s Club 20, are opposed. Supporters include the Black Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver.

Hickenlooper said he hasn’t met anyone in business who doesn’t support the education reforms that Amendment 66 would fund.

“It’s going to be a very, very close election,” Hickenlooper said. “We recognize that some business leaders, even though they support all the reforms, they couldn’t get their arms around a tax increase. That’s life. We accept that.”

Hickenlooper called Amendment 66 “the single most transformative education initiative in the history of the United States.”

He said the measure will give schools an incentive to prevent dropouts because, for the first time in Colorado, it would provide direct funding for at-risk or English-learning kids to follow the student, so when a child drops out, the school loses the funds.

Amendment 66 would raise income taxes to 5 percent on the first $75,000 of income and 5.9 percent on income more than $75,000. The current rate is a flat 4.63 percent.

The estimated $1 billion a year would go to public schools, including several reforms the Legislature has enacted but never funded.

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