DENVER Proposition 103, the proposed sales and income tax increase for schools, has put a pair of Democrats in an awkward position.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and Congressional candidate Sal Pace have withheld their support for the measure, even though they have been firm supporters of public school funding in the past.
Backers of Prop 103 sent a letter to Hickenlooper and state lawmakers Thursday, urging them to pledge their support and reverse three years of cuts to schools.
If it fails, next years cuts will be a matter of choice, not necessity. Elected officials who oppose this very moderate measure will bear direct responsibility for those cuts, says the letter from Great Education Colorado Action, which was signed by 1,200 people around the state.
Hickenlooper has recently stopped using a line he had repeated since last summers campaign, when he began saying Coloradans have no appetite for a tax increase.
He now says that he made a commitment not to support any new taxes in his first year in office.
Prop 103s lead backer, state Sen. Rollie Heath, has noticed the shift.
Weve gone from no appetite for taxes to I am sympathetic to the need (to fund schools), Heath said.
Heaths campaigns website voteyeson103.com includes a list of groups and newspapers that have endorsed the measure, but not elected officials.
I think you could surely say that all the Democratic legislators are in support of this, Heath said, although he added that he had not talked to Pace about it and was unsure of his position.
Pace, in fact, neither supports nor opposes it. Pace, a Pueblo legislator and head of the House Democrats, is running against U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez.
Ultimately, this measure will be decided by Colorados voters, and I agree with the governor that theres little appetite for tax measures, no matter how good the cause. Scott Tiptons the one who pushes ideology over common sense, not me. I want to find solutions that work, Pace said in an email reply to a reporters question.
Pace added that by increasing jobs and getting the economy moving again, Colorado can find ways to fix the budget gap and fund its schools.
A spokesman for Tipton did not return calls and emails seeking Tiptons position on Prop 103.
Republicans also are eager to pin down Democrats and have prodded them to take positions.
A GOP-aligned group called Compass Colorado started running television ads last week against state Sen. Evie Hudak, a Democrat from a west Denver swing district, calling her out for supporting Prop 103.
Voting by mail is happening now and will end Nov. 1.