School voucher, tax cuts floated by Colorado conservatives for 2024 ballot
(Colorado Newsline) Finding themselves shut out of power at the state level for at least the next two years, Colorado Republicans are redoubling their efforts to score major policy wins at the ballot box in 2024.
More than a dozen potential ballot initiatives have been filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office by two groups of conservative political operatives over the last few weeks. About half of the proposed measures aim to cut state taxes, while several others would make drastic changes to Colorado’s K-12 education system.
Proposed Initiative #19, filed by political operative Suzanne Taheri and former GOP state Sen. Steven Ward, would enshrine “the right to school choice” in the Colorado Constitution. Parents would have “the right to direct per pupil funding for their child to the schooling of their choice,” including “charter, private and home schools.”
That’s an outcome long sought by proponents of a statewide school voucher program, which would allow public education funding to cover the costs of tuition at private schools. Critics say the programs undermine the public education system, and Colorado courts have repeatedly struck down voucher programs created at both the state and local levels.
The text of Proposed Initiative #19 was approved by the state’s Title Board, a three-member panel that governs ballot access for citizen-initiated measures. To qualify for the ballot, a constitutional amendment must collect signatures from at least 2% of registered voters in each of Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts, and it must receive at least 55% of the vote to pass.
Another constitutional measure filed by Taheri and Ward, Proposed Initiative #23, would allow new charter schools to be authorized by the state, rather than by local school districts. It will be heard by the Title Board at a hearing Wednesday.
Taheri and Ward have also filed a variety of initiatives to cut or restrict the growth of state taxes, including one that would limit property tax increases to no more than 3% annually, along with a proposal to temporarily reduce state sales taxes. A final set of measures aims to lower the state’s income tax rate, currently set at 4.4%, to either 4.35% or 4.25%.
Jon Caldara and Ben Murrey, conservative activists affiliated with the Denver-based Independence Institute, have filed multiple income tax-cut initiatives of their own. As statutory initiatives, the tax cut measures require petition signatures from 124,238 registered voters to qualify for the ballot, and a simple majority to pass.
Such a measure would be the third consecutive income tax cut backed by Caldara and the Independence Institute to appear on Coloradans’ even-year ballots. Voters last year approved Proposition 121, which cut the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.4%, just two years after approving Proposition 116, which cut the rate to 4.55% from 4.63%.
The continued incremental cuts are part of what Murrey last year called a “Path to Zero” — an effort to gradually abolish the state’s income tax altogether.
Separately, Caldara and former GOP state legislative candidate Hilleary Waters have filed a 2024 initiative that would limit regular sessions of the General Assembly to 90 days, and another that would give the Title Board, rather than the Legislature, final say over how the text of referred measures appear on Colorado ballots.