DENVER - In the final week before voters decide on Amendment 66, the campaign supporting the education tax increase received $2 million in donations from Melinda Gates and a charity run by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"It is a testament to the breadth and depth of our reforms that Colorado has attracted the attention of business leaders across the country," Gov. John Hickenlooper said of the donations.
The donations from out-of-state, wealthy and politically-connected Democrats drew criticism from conservatives opposed to the tax increase.
"Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should have realized by now that he can't buy Colorado politics," said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado.
Bloomberg was a top donor in September to two embattled state senators who were facing recall elections over gun legislation they supported during the 2013 legislative session. Senators John Morse and Angela Giron lost their seats despite outspending those trying to oust them.
Bloomberg's donation for the Amendment 66 came from the Bloomberg Philanthropies, a New York non-profit.
The check came from Melinda Gates personally, not the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is actively promoting education reform and improvement across the United States.
"Amendment 66 will bring a number of important policy reforms that should drive student achievement and provide Colorado students the education they need and deserve," said Bill and Melinda Gates in a statement released by the campaign.
Colorado Commits to Kids - the yes on Amendment 66 campaign - has so far spent $9.4 million according to a campaign finance report submitted Monday.
That money has paid for TV and radio ads, but also a door-to-door campaign encouraging voters to support the $950 million increase in personal income taxes.
Coloradans for Real Education Reform, which opposes the tax increase, had not submitted its Oct. 28 report by 5 p.m.; it had until midnight to file.
As of Oct. 15, the group had reported spending $6,853.
Amendment 66 would increase the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent and it would also create a second tax bracket for all income over $75,000, which would be taxed at 5.9 percent.
The tax increase would generate $950 million, all of which would be directed to local school districts.
Most of the money would go to districts with large numbers of at-risk students who are living in poverty, are learning English as a second language or have a learning disability.
Another huge chunk of the funds would increase the state-wide per-pupil funding level to a minimum amount, while also ensuring no school districts lose funding under the new education finance formula.
Every registered voter has received a mail in ballot for the Nov. 5 election; completed ballots can be dropped off at any of the El Paso County voter service centers or mailed back. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Contact Megan Schrader