More taxes still, on top of Ref C? Windels wants'em

By Ben DeGrow (

DENVER - Amid a heated election contest to suspend taxpayer refunds, a leading Colorado Senate Democrat has moved forward in her plan to urge voters to adopt another tax increase to fund K-12 education.

At a Tuesday meeting, an Interim School Finance Committee composed of 10 state lawmakers agreed to proceed with crafting legislation recommending Colorado voters approve a new funding source to finance the state's schools. Committee chair Senator Sue Windels (D - Arvada) proposed the idea, which she styled as "Referendum E."

Windels said she would consider putting the measure on the statewide ballot in 2007.

Four committee members objected to forwarding Windels' idea for immediate action, including Senator Ron Tupa (D - Boulder), who cited the current contentious election battle over Referenda C and D as poor timing to raise the spectre of more taxes.

"I could see the Jon Caldaras of the world saying, 'Look, the government is out for more money,'" Tupa said. "My heart is with you, [Senator Windels], but my head just isn't."

On the ballot November 1, Referendum C asks voters to forfeit an estimated $3.7 billion in refunds under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) over the next five years and ratchets up the state government's spending forever. Referendum D, dependent on the passage of C, would authorize the state to borrow an additional $2.1 billion for transportation and school construction projects, and police and fire employee pension bailouts.

In a handout given to committee members and guests, Senator Windels described her proposed Referendum E as "Everyone's Effort for Equity and Excellence in Education." The plan calls for increased funding for full-day kindergarten and preschool with no price tag yet specified.

Senator Nancy Spence (R - Centennial) proposed that the committee should "craft a trade-off" by also endorsing the removal of Amendment 23 from the State Constitution.

Windels rejected the idea, stating that she did not want "to put K-12 on the chopping block" before voters make a decision on Referenda C and D.