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With only two months until the November election, the race to raise money for campaigns is heating up, but a ballot measure seeking to lower the state's income tax rate appears to have cooled off.

Colorado Character, the campaign behind Initiative 31 asking voters to reduce the state's income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%, has raised $546,500 so far, according to the most recent filings from the Secretary of State’s Office. The campaign's last reported contribution was in February and it hasn't filed new finance reports since July. 

This is the lowest fundraising total of any of the eight initiatives on Colorado’s November ballot.

The last time voters were asked to cut the state income tax, there was little spending by both sides of the ballot question, which Coloradans approved by a wide margin.    

The joint committee for Initiatives 121 and 122 has raised over $11.4 million to allow grocery stores to sell wine and let third-party delivery companies deliver alcohol. Initiatives 10858 and 96 each raised between $2.6 million and $3.6 million. The measures, respectively, seek to invest state income tax revenue on affordable housing, allow licensed providers to administer psychedelic mushrooms and remove the limit on liquor stores operated by one entity.

The only ballot measures close to Initiative 31’s low fundraising totals are House Bill 1414 and Senate Bill 222, which were referred to the ballot by the General Assembly, rather than making the ballot via petition. However, supporters of those questions still have raised more money: The campaign behind House Bill 1414 reported raising over $800,000 and Senate Bill 222 raising over $700,000. The former seeks to provide free lunches to public school students, while the requires telling voters how particular ballot measures would affect individual income tax rates.

Typically, fundraising totals signal how active a campaign might be — the more cash it has, the more money it can deploy to buy digital and traditional ads or send mailers to voters. However, Initiative 31 doesn't face any declared opposition, which hampers the ability of opponents to defeat the measure at the ballot box. 

Initiative 31’s $546,500 came from only four donors, all conservative political organizations. Colorado Rising Action and Defend Colorado each contributed $250,000, and Coloradans for Civil Liberties and the Independence Institute donated $45,000 and $1,500, respectively.

Three of the donations, totaling $545,000, were made in 2021. The smallest and most recent donation came in February, with no fundraising reported since.

Initiative 31’s campaign spending has also significantly slowed in 2022, expending more than $543,800 primarily on canvasing during the petitioning period from August 2021 to November 2021, but only $1,335 since, according to filings from the Secretary of State’s Office. This left the campaign with just over $1,300 remaining for the final two months before the election.

Initiative 31 is backed by Jon Caldara, the longtime president of the Colorado-based, free market-oriented Independence Institute, and Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. Caldara is also an opinion columnist for Colorado Politics.

The Independence Institute said the ballot measure is Coloradans taking “the fight against rising costs into their own hands,” describing lowering the state income tax as an essential move to combat inflation and provide “immediate relief” for Coloradans by saving the average taxpayer around $120 in the first year. 

While no formal committee has arisen to oppose Initiative 31, some organizations have come out against the measure. The Denver-based nonprofit Bell Policy Center released multiple statements on social media opposing the ballot measure. 

“(Initiative 31) would actually undo the small step Colorado has taken toward a fairer tax structure,” the Bell Policy Center said, claiming the measure would “benefit the wealthiest Coloradans” by reducing state revenue by $400 million, potentially cutting into state spending on social services.

In an August report, the nonpartisan, conservative-leaning Common Sense Institute said future refunds from the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights would offset the initial decline in state revenue from the ballot measure, allowing the state government to not reduce spending for the first two years. The institute also claimed that the measure would save taxpayers $767 million in 2023.

Initiative 31 was the first initiative to qualify for the 2022 ballot, receiving approval from the Secretary of State’s Office in November 2021 — a full eight months before the next initiative officially qualified.

The initiative gathered 148,189 valid signatures, needing only 124,632 to qualify for the ballot.

Those behind Initiative 31 also pushed 2020's successful Proposition 116, which reduced the state income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%. Voters approved the measure by a 15-point margin, even though there was little spending on either side. The Legislative Council's fiscal impact statement for the measure estimated state revenues would drop by $230 million in 2020-21 and by $154 million in the current fiscal year. 

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