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Nonprofit groups tell Colorado governor to oppose Proposition 116

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Derek Draplin | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Over 50 nonprofit groups in Colorado sent a letter to Governor Jared Polis Monday making their case for why he should oppose a ballot measure that would reduce the statewide income tax rate.

Proposition 116, the State Income Tax Rate Reduction initiative, will appear on November’s general election ballot. The measure, backed by conservative organizations and taxpayer advocacy groups, would cut the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent.

The group that sent the letter includes teachers’ unions like American Federation of Teachers - Colorado and Colorado Education Association, left-leaning think tanks like the Colorado Fiscal Institute and Bell Policy Center, along with some health and education groups, among others.

Advocates of the tax-cutting measure argue it would allow Coloradans to keep more money in their pockets during the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

The letter cited $3.3 billion in budget cuts made by the General Assembly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to reduced services and more inequality as reasons for opposing the measure.

“If the income tax rate cut happens in November, there will be even more cuts to make,” the letter said, noting $1.2 billion in cuts to K-12 education and $493 million to higher education, among other budget cuts.

fiscal report estimates the state general fund would see a $158.4 million reduction in fiscal year 2020-21, and a $169.8 million reduction in fiscal year 2021-22.

“The budget cuts aren’t just numbers – they have real life impacts on students, teachers, human service professionals, and the very infrastructure that keeps Colorado together,” the letter said.

The letter also argues that a lower income tax rate would hurt lower-income minorities and help white people. 

“With Black, Indigenous, and people of color overrepresented in lower income quintiles and white Coloradans overrepresented in higher income categories, the vast majority of the tax cuts would flow to white residents,” the letter said. “Furthermore, state services are more important for families with low incomes who see the benefits from more statewide investments in education, childcare, health care, child welfare services, older adult care, and other programs within the state budget.”

The letter comes after Governor Jared Polis last week spoke highly of an income tax reduction without endorsing the measure, according to The Colorado Sun.

“We’ve long sought an income tax decrease,” Polis said, The Colorado Sun reported. “We obviously preferred that it was revenue neutral. But particularly in this challenging time, I think Coloradans certainly need tax relief.” 

Fiscal conservative advocates say cutting income taxes would benefit all working Coloradoans.

“Right now, who needs money more – politicians, or everyday Coloradans?” asked Jesse Mallory, director of the Americans for Prosperity-Colorado Issue Committee, one of the measure’s backers. “Reducing the state income tax would help keep more money in the pockets of hard-working Coloradans to help make ends meet, support their families, and invest in their communities.”