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Coloradans reject Bloomberg-backed $1 billion tax hike for education

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Colorado voters were set to overwhelmingly reject a $1 billion education tax increase Tuesday night, bringing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s record in attempting to influence the state’s politics to an underwhelming 0-2.

Bloomberg gave more than $1 million to the campaign to encourage a yes vote on Amendment 66, which would have jettisoned Colorado’s flat income tax rate in favor of a two-tiered system that would have raised about $950 million annually to pay for sweeping changes to education.

But there was no mistaking the will of the voters, who sent the measure down in flames. The tax hike was losing by 66-34 percent when its backers conceded defeat.

This is the second time in two months that Bloomberg put his money on a losing proposition in a Colorado election. He made headlines in September for supporting two Democratic state lawmakers who were facing a recall for their support of the state’s new gun control legislation. Both were ousted from office.

Bloomberg joined Bill and Melinda Gates as well as teachers’ unions in spending a total of $10 million on the “Yes on 66” campaign. Opponents raised almost no money to fight it.

The amendment would have changed the formula by which money is spent on Colorado schools and it would have financed a wide array of services, including all-day kindergarten and specialized instruction for special-needs students. Proponents said it would also have restored classes and programs lost to past budget cuts.

But opponents countered that there was no guarantee that all the money would actually reach the classroom once it was distributed at the local level. Many were concerned that school districts would use the funds to backfill the public employees retirement fund. Even some Democrats prominent in education reform opposed what would have been the biggest tax hike in state history.

Jon Caldara, the president of the libertarian Independence Institute, wrote in a Denver Post op-ed that Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who in the past has lobbied for tax increases with the zeal of a carnival barker, was largely absent from the campaign for Amendment 66.

“Perhaps Hickenlooper is publicly AWOL because he is growing cautious after the scathing reaction to Colorado’s recent lurch to the hard left,” he wrote.

There’s little question that Coloradans are pushing back against that lurch, which was brought about by a Democratic-controlled legislative session that even Hickenlooper admitted might have gone too far in passing an array of progressive legislation.

Conservatives praised Amendment 66’s defeat.

“Once again CO citizens confirm they know what’s better for them then [sic] East Coast politicians and [special interest] groups,” tweeted Colorado House Minority Leader Republican Rep. Mark Waller.

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