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Can Bloomberg, Melinda Gates Cash Push Colo. Tax Hike to Victory?

The campaign to increase Colorado state taxes by $950 million for schools has gotten a serious injection of cash via two prominent, controversial donors—Melinda Gates and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The $1 million donation from Gates comes from her personally, and not from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which provides grant support to Education Week). The $1.05 million Bloomberg donation is not from the Gotham boss himself but from Bloomberg Philanthropies and goes to Colorado Commits to Kids, the campaign behind Amendment 66 that would enable the tax hike. Bloomberg has another recent connection to Colorado politics—he personally donated cash to Taxpayers for Responsible Democracy, which supported two Democratic state legislators who lost recall elections that gained attention for their focus on gun control.

The Gazette newspaper in Colorado reports that according to Colorado Commits to Kids' latest campaign filings, supporters of Amendment 66 have spent $9.4 million to get voters to approve the tax increase. The amendment would toss the state's flat tax rate of 4.63 percent over the side and replace it with a progressive income tax, with a top marginal rate of 5.9 percent on income over $75,000 and a 5 percent rate on income below that threshold.

For some perspective, at roughly this time last year a campaign in Washington state to allow charter schools to operate there had raised about $8.9 million. Another Gates (Bill this time) contributed heavily to that Washington campaign. The charter-school push in Washington state succeeded—but will Amendment 66 enjoy the same success?

As I pointed out in my Oct. 23 story from Colorado, polling (albeit from a conservative outfit) showed that only 38 percent of likely voters who were surveyed would support the tax-hike proposal. The charter election in the Evergreen State was a nailbiter. Unlike that election, the pro-Amendment 66 campaign has the support of the teachers' unions. The Colorado Education Association has donated $2 million to the Amendment 66 campaign, nearly doubling the combined donations of Gates and Bloomberg.

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