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Prop 103 donations nearing $175,000

Support Schools for a Bright Colorado – the primary group backing Proposition 103, a measure to temporarily raise state income and sales taxes to fund schools – has now raised almost $175,000, including $22,000 in the past six weeks, campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State this week show.

The largest single contribution by far is a $100,000 donation in mid-June from the Gary-Williams Company, the primary funder of the Piton Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children in Colorado. An earlier $100,000 gift to the Bright Colorado campaign was made by the Piton Investment Fund. That check was returned at the donor’s request, and a new check was issued from the Gary-Williams business account, the filings show.

The second-largest donation comes from the Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers, which contributed $12,000 at the end of July. Other large contributions during this reporting period include $5,000 from Colorado WINS, which represents 31,000 state employees; $1,200 from Impact on Education, a Boulder County-based education advocacy group; $1,000 from civic leader Caz Matthews, the former president of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield; and $1,000 from investment firm Stifel Nicolaus.

Other earlier large donations include $5,000 from the Arc of Colorado, which advocates for people with development disabilities; and $10,000 from Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who has been the driving force behind this initiative all along.

“This is not going to be a glitzy campaign,” Heath said Wednesday. “We don’t think it will be a huge-dollar campaign. The ballots come out on Oct. 12, so there’s not a lot of time to spend a lot of money.”

Heath said he hopes the campaign can, nevertheless, raise another $200,000 or so.

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Under Heath’s leadership, the initiative backers obtained enough signatures on petitions to get it placed on the November ballot.

If passed, the measure would raise the state income tax to 5 percent from its current 4.63 percent and the state sales tax to 3 percent from 2.9 percent, their levels in 1999. The increases would be in effect for five years, generating an estimated $550 million per year to be earmarked for increased funding of school districts and state colleges.

The latest round of contributions brings the group’s total amount raised to $173,765. Expenditures, meanwhile, have totaled $167,829, with the bulk of that – just over $131,000 – going to political consultant Samuel F. Lopez.

One other group, Great Education Colorado Action Fund, has thus far reported a single $1,000 donation from its parent group, Great Education Colorado, in support of the initiative, and reports receiving an additional $6,800 worth of non-monetary contributions.

A group organized to defeat the initiative, Too Taxing for Colorado, has so far raised $677, and has spent $306, most of it going to create a website.

“We’re talking pennies compared to what has happened for some of these big spenders,” said Penn Pfiffner, chairman of Too Taxing for Colorado.

He compared the current campaign to the 2008 Amendment 59 campaign, which would have created a savings account for education in Colorado using money that otherwise would have been refunded to taxpayers under the state’s TABOR Amendment. Despite heavy spending by proponents and minimal spending by opposition, the initiative was defeated by voters 54 to 46 percent.

“If anything, we’ll see a repeat of that this year,” Pfiffner said.

Disclosure: The Piton Foundation is a funder of Education News Colorado.