Ballot ideas target income taxes

Initiatives would increase rates to raise revenue for Colorado

DENVER – A progressive group filed a batch of ballot initiatives Thursday that would create a graduated state income tax system and raise taxes on corporations.

The Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute filed the six initiatives after its original tax-hike plan was thrown out on a technicality in December.

The group believes the state needs more revenue to pay for its schools, colleges, highways and social services, said Carol Hedges, CFPI’s director.

“We feel pretty strongly that we have some pretty serious problems that we’re facing. We are interested in beginning the process of bringing something to the ballot in 2011,” Hedges said.

Even if the proposals do not make the ballot, they will be important test runs for a 2012 initiative. Citizen groups often file several versions of the same initiative, in order to have some ready to go in case the first ones are thrown out by state boards or in lawsuits.

Hedges’ first attempt died last December at the secretary of state’s Title Board, a three-person group that vets initiatives to make sure they meet legal requirements for the ballot.

The initiatives would mean an income tax increase for all but the lowest earners.

Colorado’s income tax rate currently is 4.63 percent. Hedges would change it to 4.2 percent for people earning less than $25,000, but the rate would climb as income grew, up to 9.5 percent on earnings above $500,000.

Some versions of the initiative increase the earned income tax credit for the poor. And some versions impose a corporate income tax of 7 percent or an alternative minimum tax for companies that have enough deductions to avoid income taxes right now.

“These don’t have to be the final proposals,” Hedges said. “If people are interested in engaging in that conversation, it’s important to start it.”

The initiatives face a long process, starting with a hearing at the state Capitol Feb. 17. If they meet all the legal requirements, proponents would need to collect more than 70,000 signatures to put them on the November ballot.

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