Schools, constitution concern Coloradans

PUEBLO – Educational and state constitutional issues are emerging as the top two areas of concern for those participating in the TBD Colorado initiative launched this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The first wave of multi-region summits for TBD Colorado – the “TBD” stands for To Be Determined – was held in three locations around the state, including Durango, on Saturday. And, as the TBD process works toward the halfway point, the drive to identify priorities for new state policy initiatives is zeroing in on specific targets.

“For anybody who has been paying attention, those two (educational and the constitutional) have been intertwined for some time,” said TBD Colorado participant Dave Dill, of Pueblo.

Dill added, “The amount of funds that the state has, that it can allocate to something, was greatly reduced by mandatory, statutory things,” such as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the Gallagher Amendment, which caps the amount of increase on residential property taxes.

The 1,000-plus participants in TBD Colorado across the state in recent weeks were offered a menu of six broad issues and asked to select what they saw as the two most important. The menu of options was: education, health, state budget, state workforce, transportation and the state constitution.

Given those choices, the priorities identified by nearly 1,400 respondents were: education (29 percent), state constitutional issues (23 percent), state budget (22 percent), health (14 percent), transportation (8 percent), and state workforce (2 percent). Another 2 percent said all six topics were “roughly equal” in importance.

TABOR establishes tax-revenue limits based on the previous year’s cap, and also factors in estimated changes in population as well as inflation as calculated by changes to the Consumer Price Index for Denver/Boulder/Greeley.

Beyond the half-dozen broad policy areas considered by TBD Colorado, a number of policy options have emerged since the first wave of TBD regional meetings began in April.

Polling of the TBD participants on 10 specific policy proposals has revealed the greatest support was shown for a uniform school mill levy (17 percent), universally accessible preschool and full-day kindergarten (15 percent), with two more tied for third: maintaining the current transportation system and restoring the state income tax to pre-1999 levels – both garnered the support of about 12 percent of the respondents.

The three policy options drawing the least support of the 10 choices offered in the survey were: healthful food choices for students (7 percent), rural-road safety and reliability (6 percent) and physical education in public schools (6 percent).

Thirty-three people registered in advance for the Durango summit Saturday. The other summits were in Glenwood Springs and Pueblo.

A second wave of multi-regional summits is slated for June 23, in Denver, Colorado Springs and Greeley.

Following TBD advisory committee reviews set for July 24 and Nov. 17, a final report based on the June summits will go to Gov. Hickenlooper, the General Assembly and other state officials in December.

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