Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Amendment 66 'crushed;' Colorado Republicans see opportunity

By Megan Schrader Updated: November 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm 0

Amendment 66 barely eked out a victory in two counties - Boulder and Denver - and was soundly defeated in the other 62 counties across the state.

"It was crushed," said Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli. "It was just an overwhelming defeat. It barely carried the two metro counties of Denver and Boulder and, frankly, they almost always vote for every tax."

The morning after nearly 65 percent of voters rejected a plan to increase income taxes by $950 million and simultaneously overhaul the state's education funding system, Republicans were jubilant in their victory and Democrats were licking their wounds but looking to the future.

On Twitter and Facebook Republicans were piling on.

Some asked former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $1 million to the Amendment 66 campaign, if he would finance their opponents from now on.

Others took shots at the Denver-based consulting firm that ran the pro-tax campaign.

"For the Democratic party it indicated that at least in Colorado we are still a very purple state," said Steve Mazurana, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Northern Colorado. "Particularly on 66 they could not get very many Republicans except at the local level, and in a purple state you need plenty of Republican support."

And it could have implications for the 2014 elections, although both Mazurana and Ciruli acknowledged a lot can happen between now and then to sway public opinion.

"It's a very big problem for the 2014 election," Ciruli said. "We came out of the legislature with the Democrats being accused of over-reaching, then you had one of the events that gave that validity - the recall election in Colorado Springs and Pueblo's was even more dangerous to the Democrats. Here right in our heartland, we can lose a seat."

He said Amendment 66 will be framed as Democrat overreaching - first guns, now taxes.

In Colorado Springs voters ousted Sen. John Morse, the Democratic head of the Senate, over gun control legislation he supported and introduced during the 2013 legislative session. Bloomberg also supported Morse in his campaign to keep his seat.

In Pueblo, which defeated Amendment 66 by almost 69 percent, Sen. Angela Giron was ousted from office at the same time.

El Paso County voters defeated the measure with 73 percent of the vote.

Perhaps attributing the result to voter rage doesn't account for all of the brutal defeat Tuesday night.

"I believe that when you have a collapse that big, it is a sign that it was initially flawed," Ciruli said. "It was way too expensive and in a very, very difficult year to get people to turn out that might be more attuned to a tax. There has not been a statewide tax increase passed in the modern era, and the modern era starts with TABOR in 1992."

TABOR - or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights - mandates voter approval of any tax increase at every level of government.

But Colorado voters are far less likely to oppose local tax increases for education or other projects that will have a direct and tangible impact.

"My own hunch is that if you're going to pass a pretty significant tax increase you probably ought to have several sweeteners - very specific good things attached," Mazurana said. "Does this mean a new school being built here or a new building? How much are kids going to get whether it be reading instruction or full-time kindergarten?"

Democrats on election night speculated it was simply too much money.

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said every voter he sat down with supported the policy behind Amendment 66, which included more funding for full-day kindergarten, early childhood education, English language learners and longer school days or school years.

"People all believed that those were good ideas," Johnston said. "What we disagreed about was how to pay for them and that was the narrow question that was decided."

Johnston said he's not giving up on finding ways to implement meaningful education reform in Colorado.

But Republicans won't likely give up easily, either.

House Republicans sent out their education agenda promptly Wednesday, outlining legislation they'll likely introduce in 2014.

And Sen. Bill Cadman, the Senate minority leader from Colorado Springs, said next legislative session is going to look different, although the GOP is still a minority in both houses.

"I think this legislative session and this historic tax hike are starting to indicate that they are not really reflecting the interests of the districts they represent," Cadman said. "Until education is fixed it's incumbent on all of us to keep trying to make it better. It's a constant."

 

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