In a time marked by funding cuts and economic uncertainty, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, decided to push for something unheard of: a tax increase. Now, several months and 142,000 citizen signatures after his initial proposal, Heathâ€™s idea has become Prop 103 â€” a proposition that, if passed in this Novemberâ€™s election, would increase state income and sales tax and generate more than $3 billion for K-12 and higher education.
What made you want to introduce a tax increase in the first place?
*Heath: *Last February, when I heard of the governorâ€™s education cuts, I just said, â€˜this is the opposite of what she should be doing.â€™ I just wasnâ€™t willing to sit back and do nothing, so I introduced 103 in order to stop the bleeding, put a band aid over the wound and start funding education in a meaningful way.
How much feedback have you witnessed in these past several months since introducing the increase?
H: We had 142,000 signatures (on the petition) by Aug. 1 in order to get it on the ballot. This is a citizen initiative. It was certified to get on the ballot around the 20th of August, the secretary of state verified that the signatures were valid, and weâ€™ve been campaigning on 103 since. Since August, there have been two groups that have formed to oppose it. Neither one of them raised much money.
Despite the criticism by some, what keeps you pushing for this tax increase?
H: Because I believe in it. The budget for fiscal year 2013 is going to see more cuts, so youâ€™re going to see your tuition go through the roof again.
Is there a message you want to get out to young college voters?
H: I want them to get out and vote for it (Prop. 103) because itâ€™s very much in their self-interest if nothing else. We (Colorado) are basically funding higher ed last in the country, and this is only going to continue to get worse.