DENVER — Backers of Colorado’s Amendment 66, which would increase income taxes to generate $950 million annually for Colorado schools, announced Monday that billionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have both contributed a million dollars to their campaign.
The Yes on 66 campaign filed reports Monday showing that the organization raised $2.54 million between Oct. 10-23, including $1 million from Bill and Melinda Gates and $1.05 million from Bloomberg, the New York City Mayor who was also a driving force behind Colorado’s stricter gun control laws passed this year.
Those donations put the campaign’s total contributions to date over the $10 million mark, its unofficial goal at the outset of the effort.
In a press release from the Yes on 66 campaign announcing the contributions, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper — not any of the other less prominent political advocates and business leaders supporting the campaign — offered a quote thanking the out-of-state donors.
“Our deep thanks go to Bill and Melinda Gates, Mayor Bloomberg, and all of our Colorado donors for supporting Amendment 66,” Hickenlooper said in the release. “It is a testament to the breadth and depth of our reforms that Colorado has attracted the attention of business leaders across the country.”
That’s noteworthy given Hickenlooper’s recent statements to national media advising national groups to stay out of Colorado politics and policy debates.
“Colorado is a state that people like to be themselves and solve their own problems,” Hickenlooper told USA TODAY earlier this month. “They don’t really like outside organizations meddling in their affairs.”
Conservatives opposing Amendment 66 took notice.
“Gov. Hickenlooper’s hypocritical comments are just yet another example of his inability to take a firm stand on any issue,” said Kelly Maher, who runs Compass Colorado, a conservative group coordinating opposition to Amendment 66. “One minute he is against out-of-state political money, but if it’s for his billion dollar tax hike baby, then it’s praiseworthy.”
Amendment 66 asks Colorado voters to approve a two-tiered income tax hike in order to fund new school financing system that would pay for full-day kindergarten statewide and direct additional funds to districts with higher percentages of at-risk students.
Opponents of the initiative haven’t mustered a heavily-financed campaign, relying instead on grassroots activists, a relatively small donation from the Independence Institute and the general sense that it’s a lot easier convincing voters not to raise taxes on themselves than doing the opposite.
Colorado Commits to Kids, which is running the Yes on 66 campaign, has been running television ads highlighting what the reforms will pay for; additionally, the campaign has invested a lot of resources in a field operation to target Democratic and unaffiliated voters likely to support the initiative.
Bloomberg’s become a lightning rod in Colorado, where he’s closely identified with the new gun laws and the recent recalls in which two Democrats who supported the legislation were voted out of office, despite Bloomberg giving $350,000 to their anti-recall campaigns.
“Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should have realized by now that he can’t buy Colorado politics, but apparently he can still rope his friends in to try to flood the landscape with out-of-state money,” Maher said.