Does CEA Care More About School Funding or Political Allies?

This article was originally posted at Ed News Colorado.

Sure, the Colorado Education Association loves to increase funding for K-12 schools and retain member jobs. But sometimes, its pleas for school funding simply don’t add up. Yesterday’s CEA blog entry “Amazon: play fair, support school funding” is just such an example:

In other words, Amazon firing its affiliates does nothing to impact the fact that Amazon.com is still required to collect sales tax or, at a minimum alert their customers to this requirement under state law. The giant retailer is using its political weight to protest losing its tax-free status and having to compete on par with other Colorado retailers.

Why should you care? Because sales tax revenues fund public schools. A portion of all sales tax revenue goes into the State Education fund, the first source for nearly all K-12 public education programs, from the state’s share of Total Program to funding for full-day kindergarten.

By ensuring that all companies doing business in Colorado collect sales tax from retail sales, we are ensuring that revenue continues to flow into the State Education Fund. By creating a more level playing field for Colorado companies to compete with online retail giants, we are helping support local companies — this also raises property and income tax revenues that help fund public education.

Perhaps CEA should strive to be more honest, or at least to do its homework by reading this thorough and careful analysis from the Tax Foundation (H/T Free Colorado). Among other things, the analysis shows that Amazon taxes:

  • Are “unlikely to produce revenue in the near-term”
  • Make the playing field less (not more) level between brick-and-mortar businesses and their Internet-based counterparts “because they require Internet-based businesses to track thousands of sales tax bases and rates while brick-and-mortar businesses need to track only one”
  • “Undermine legal certainty, burden interstate commerce, and harm economic growth”

So maybe CEA is ignorant of tax policy and chose to accept the official fiscal note that claimed Colorado’s Amazon Tax (aka HB 1193) would raise nearly $5 million more state revenue per year. Or maybe CEA is just trying to provide cover for its allies in the legislative majority at the State Capitol. Because after all, who can provide a better It’s For the Kids propaganda moment than the teachers union?

There’s one way to tell which scenario is more likely to be the case. Find out whether CEA opposes SB 177 (PDF), an expansion of an agricultural tax credit that legislative fiscal analysts say will negatively impact local property tax collection for schools.

CEA’s choice in supporting tax policies conveniently appears less dependent on how the policies affect school funding than on how they affect the interests of its Left-leaning political coalition.

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