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Conservative Think Tank Circulating Colorado Tax Cut Petition

By Asha Glover · May 19, 2020, 8:19 PM EDT

A conservative think tank is circulating a Colorado ballot initiative that would lower the state's flat income tax rate, only days after the governor signed an executive order allowing remote signature gathering in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Independence Institute announced the launch of its petition drive for Initiative 306 on Monday. The ballot measure would lower Colorado's individual and corporate state income tax rates from 4.63% to 4.55%.

Signature gatherers must collect 124,632 signatures in support of the initiative by Aug. 3 to qualify for the November ballot, according to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold's website.

"An across-the-board income tax rate reduction will allow these business owners and their employees to keep and spend more of their own money," Colorado Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, an initiative proponent, said in a statement. "State government doesn't need to increase its already bloated budget." 

The petition drive launch comes after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on Friday suspended a law requiring in-person signature collection for ballot initiative campaigns and directed Griswold to create temporary rules allowing for the collection of signatures with email or mail options.

The group did not specify whether it would physically canvass for signatures or use the methods available under the governor's order. 

Colorado Concern, a business coalition, and Dan Ritchie, the University of Denver's chancellor emeritus, on Monday asked a state court to find the governor's order suspending in-person collection requirements unconstitutional and bar Griswold, the Colorado from acting on the executive order.

Initiative 306 is supported by the Charles Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. In a statement, Jesse Mallory, the state director of Americans for Prosperitysaid that Colorado voters in November should have a choice between keeping their money or giving it to the government.

The ballot measure is intended to serve as an alternative to Initiative 271, which would create a graduated income tax instead of the state's current flat tax rate of 4.63%. Under the initiative, the first $250,000 in annual state taxable income would be taxed at 4.58%, income from $250,000 to $500,000 would be taxed at 7%, income from $500,000 to $1 million would be taxed at 7.75% and income over $1 million would be taxed at 8.9%.

According to the fiscal impact statement for Initiative 271, the measure would raise $2 billion in revenue.

"We look forward to giving the voters a real choice between a progressive tax increase which will be billed as a middle-class tax cut, and a real tax cut for every Coloradan," Jon Caldara, the Independent Institute's president and proponent of Initiative 306, said in a statement.

Representatives for the Independent Institute and Polis did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

--Additional reporting by Daniel Tay. Editing by Neil Cohen.

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