In a few weeks, voters in Colorado will have a chance to reform one of the most significant tax limitations ever enacted. Amendment 66, designed to raise nearly a billion dollars a year for education, would end the state’s flat income tax structure. It would mandate a progressive income tax – higher rates on the rich – and use the extra money for the children. In other words, it is a chance to take money from the Scrooge-like robber barons and give it to the poor, angelic urchins living in the squalor of the streets. That’s how it’s being sold, at least.
Every organization that supports passage is asserting the measure’s fairness. Even back East in Washington, my friends at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy say it would make the system fairer. Many other folks also believe that replacing the flat income tax rate with a progressive system would be fairer. The fairness would result because the rich would be paying more.
Just who will be treated more fairly if the measure passes? Not the working poor – that’s for sure. The amendment would raise taxes not only on the rich, but on everyone. The current flat rate of 4.63 percent will go up for all people. It would rise to 5 percent if you make up to $75,000 and 5.9 percent if you make more than that. Yes, poor workers will pay more than they do now!
The only winners are the teachers’ unions and friends of politicians who sell stuff to school districts. I’m not sure how raising the tax burden on someone who earns $30,000 a year can ever be characterized as fair. What’s fair about asking the auto mechanic or waitress to pay more so that the governor’s supporters are enriched?
Two sets of people are supporting the amendment. First, just about every state and local organization dependent on government funding is supporting it. The teachers’ unions have given over $1 million to see it passed. Then there are liberal political leaders who live for government expansion and redistribution. In Colorado, those politicians are supported by a small coalition of bored liberal billionaires who have also donated millions of dollars to the cause. I am sure those hardworking, middle-class wage earners who will pay more are very happy that the bored liberal billionaires are looking out for them.
Sure, the rich will pay more (and relatively much more). But supporters of the measure are asking the working poor to pay as well. There is nothing fair or just or noble about that. And Coloradans have rejected similar proposals. Indeed, in 2011 voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 103, which would have raised $3 billion for the schools. The working stiffs in Colorado can only hope for a repeat.