This summer, EPOG posted on a proposal the Denver City Council was considering, about adding a ballot measure to raise taxes for student scholarships and debt relief funds. The City Council decided to move forward with the proposal, and Denver residents can vote on the measure this election on November 3, 2015.
The measure would increase sales tax by about eight cents per one hundred dollars spent, and would generate an estimated 10.6 million dollars per year that would go toward providing student loan debt relief, funding scholarships, and funding support services for students completing degrees like tutoring and mentoring programs. Students receiving the funds would need to qualify for financial aid based on financial need and attend a public university, college, or technical school in Colorado. If passed, the tax would go into effect on January 1, 2016, and would expire on December 31, 2025.
The ballot measure is a creative way to deal with the rising cost of college education, in a time when a college degree is more necessary than ever, and state funds for higher education are declining. The Summary of Written Comments For Referred Question 2A states the measure will help students who are qualified and intelligent obtain an equal shot at a college degree, even if they come from a low income family or are a first generation student. Not only does the measure provide funds for tuition, but it is committed to the continued support of students, demonstrated by the allocation of funds to support services in addition to tuition. These support services would help ensure students stay on track and complete their goals of achieving a college degree.
The Summary of Written Comments Against Referred Question 2A states college tuition is not the responsibility of the city government and that a sales tax, which all people pay equally regardless of income, could disproportionately hurt lower income families. Opposing members of the City Council state this measure could set a bad precedent by expecting taxpayers to close the gap when funds run short, and that there are many financial issues a tax hike could solve that are simply not appropriate for the city government to resolve in this way.
Measure 2A is supported by a majority of the Denver City Council (with City Council members Espinoza, Flynn, Kniech, and Susman opposing) as well as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
Statewide, tax increases for education purposes have been rare to pass. In 2013, Amendment 66, an education tax that would have provided $950 million dollars to public education in Colorado, failed by a wide margin when 66% of Colorado voters voted against it. It will be interesting to see if Denver as a city can pass this education tax increase, or if voters in Denver will be skeptical of this bill as well.
Mail in ballots are arriving and election day is November 3, 2015. Make sure to use your vote this election!
Posted by Haley DiRenzo