School finance initiative not yet cleared for November ballot

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Sponsors of the School Finance Act, Sens. Mike Johnston and Rollie Heath, high five moments after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the proposal into law at the Capitol in May.

DENVER — A day after a carefully orchestrated roll-out of the campaign in support of a $950 million tax hike that will make new investments in Colorado schools, Secretary of State Scott Gessler informed proponents of Initiative 22 that he will have to examine petitions line-by-line to determine if it qualifies for the November ballot.

Colorado Commits to Kids, the organization behind the campaign for the school finance initiative, turned in more than 160,000 signatures on Aug. 5 — almost twice as many as the they need to make the ballot.

But the signature verification of a random 5 percent sample of those submitted petitions fell into a range that automatically triggers a line-by-line examination.

Andrew Freedman, the campaign director, isn’t sweating what he believes will be just a temporary setback.

“We turned in nearly double the required number of signatures, and the random sample suggests we have collected more than enough to qualify for the ballot,” said Freedman. “We look forward to that announcement before Sept.5 and will continue building support for the initiative to make Colorado a national leader in public education.”

Proponents needed to meet a very high threshold — the sample had to show a verification rate that would project to at least 110 percent of the required 86,105 valid signatures in order for the initiative to move directly to the ballot. The sample showed a percentage of presumed valid signatures to be 107.88.

Basically, the sample projected that the group turned in 92,892 valid signatures. That’s more than would be required to make the ballot, but not enough to avoid the line-by-line review.

By law, the secretary of state has until Sept. 4 to complete its review.

Opponents of the initiative, which proposes a two-tiered income tax hike, relished Friday’s news.

“It’s no surprise that an out-of-touch Washington, DC firm — paid over half a million dollars to date — struggled to properly collect signatures to put a billion dollar tax increase on the ballot in Colorado,” said Compass Colorado Executive Director Kelly Maher.

“When you have East Coast and special interests entering the state to try to impose their will on Colorado’s families, the result will never be a good one.

“The need for review is a huge indictment on the claimed momentum of their campaign,” Maher continued. “The people of Colorado do not want and cannot afford a billion dollar tax increase at a time when our recovery is fragile.”