There’s no sugar coating it, and the Durango Herald makes no attempt:
Proposition 103, a state senator’s improbable campaign to convince voters to raise taxes statewide for education, failed Tuesday by a 2-to-1 margin.
Backers conceded defeat an hour after polls closed. Prop 103 failed 36 percent to 64 percent, with nearly all precincts reporting. The measure was losing in every large county in the state except Boulder. Even Denver, where voters often are willing to raise taxes, handed the measure a lopsided defeat. State Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, wrote Prop 103 after Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed record cuts to schools last spring.
“We had hoped people were ready to stand up,” Heath said. “Clearly they weren’t. But let’s hope that we all come together to solve the problems because they aren’t going to go away, and we’ve got to do this for our kids.”
In the end, despite the hope from proponents of Proposition 103 that their small-scale labors were making an impact, there were never anywhere near the resources needed to win invested in this campaign. The $600,000 raised by opponents is a drop in the bucket compared to 2005’s multimillion-dollar Referendum C operation. No ballot chase of the scale required to win was ever organized, and no ad campaign to overcome the natural voter disinclination to a tax increase was ever funded. In addition, there appears to have been a larger degree of ambivalence toward Proposition 103 from “progressive” Democrats, who believed that it was an insufficient solution to a bigger problem, than proponents had anticipated.
Of course, the biggest reason that none of the resources needed to win were available to the Proposition 103 campaign was the lack of help from key players like Gov. John Hickenlooper, which might well have precipitated broader support. Hickenlooper has maintained throughout the election that his pledge to stay away from tax increases in his first year in office prevented him from supporting Proposition 103. While some proponents are upset with Hickenlooper this morning, the measure’s lopsided defeat ensures he will not suffer politically for his decision.
Bottom line: Proposition 103 didn’t prove that a tax increase election in Colorado is impossible, any more than 2005’s Referendum C proved they can easily be won. The lesson of Proposition 103 is that you can’t do these things without help. The epilogue to this story, of course, is the additional $97 million in cuts to public schools proposed in Hickenlooper’s budget yesterday. Those cuts come on top of the hundreds of millions cut from public education in recent years.
Safe to say, Proposition 103 will not be the last chance to show some leadership.