DENVER (AP) — A ballot question seeking to raise Colorado residents' income taxes to benefit public schools was upheld Tuesday by a Denver judge who rejected claims that petition signatures to put the question to voters weren't sufficient.
Opponents of Amendment 66 sued to have the measure deemed invalid. They argued there were enough suspect petition signatures to call the Nov. 5 measure into question.
Denver District Judge Michael Mullins wrote Tuesday that some of the petition signatures were indeed problematic. But he concluded that the problems weren't serious enough to invalidate a measure that has already been printed on ballots after state elections officials deemed the petition adequate.
The fact that certain petition signatures were wrongly accepted, he wrote, was "nothing more than administrative error ... not fraud or deception."
The school tax proposal asks voters to hike income taxes about $950 million a year. If passed, the additional income tax money would be spent on expanded access to free preschool and other upgrades.
Groups supporting the school finance overhaul delivered more than 160,000 signatures in August to put the question to voters. That was nearly twice the required number to get the measure on ballots.
To pay for the changes, Colorado's current income tax rate of 4.63 percent would be raised to 5 percent on earnings up to $75,000 a year and 5.9 percent for earnings above that threshold.
A person with a taxable income of $45,000 would pay an additional $166.50 a year. Someone with a taxable income of $100,000 a year would pay an extra $595 annually.
Opponents say the tax hike is too big and the overhaul doesn't make the right kinds of changes to improve schools. Some critics wanted to see more money for charter schools, while others complain that it doesn't contain adequate safeguards that the extra money would be spent only on the changes supporters tout.
All Republicans in the Legislature voted against the overhaul.
The school tax question is one of just two statewide proposals facing voters next month. The other is a pair of proposed marijuana taxes, with those funds marked for school construction and regulation of the new drug.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt .
School tax campaign: http://coloradocommitstokids.com