A group of Colorado parents, students, teachers, hunger advocates and other supporters led the campaign to pass Healthy school meals for all measurement of the poll.
For decades, many children in Colorado and the United States have not had access to good quality meals at school, but also at home. This has contributed to a cascade of problems ranging from hunger and food insecurity to obesity.
During the pandemic, the federal government provided universal free school meals to all children, not just those from the poorest homes, who qualified for school meal programs. The move helped many families have better food security than they had in years. This initiative aims to make this change permanent in Colorado, by limiting tax deductions, but only for Colorado’s most affluent taxpayers.
If voters approve the measure, Proposition FF would create a program to provide access to free meals for all Colorado public school students and to provide grants to schools to help pay for those meals. That’s according to the state’s 2022 Ballot Information Book, also known as blue book. Funding for the program would come from wealthier Colorados, particularly via raising taxes on households with more than $300,000 in adjusted federal gross income by limiting state income tax deductions.
Starting in 2024, the Colorado Department of Education must report every two years to the state legislature on the implementation and progress of the school lunch and subsidy programs created by the measure, according to the Blue Book. The agency must also contract with an independent auditor to carry out a financial and performance audit of the program. The audit report should be easily accessible to the public.
The initiative was put on the ballot by the state legislature, which is currently controlled by Democrats. It passes the majority.
Here is the language you will see on the ballot:
Will state taxes be increased by $100,727,820 per year by an amendment to Colorado’s revised statutes that, to support healthy meals for public school students, only increases state taxable income for individuals with federal taxable income of $300,000 or more by limiting detailed or standard state income tax? deductions of up to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers and, in this regard, the creation of the Healthy School Lunches for All program to provide free school meals to public school students; provide grants to participating schools to purchase products grown, raised, or processed in Colorado, to increase salaries or pay allowances to employees who prepare and serve school lunches, and to establish parent-student advisory committees to to provide guidance to ensure that school meals are healthy and appealing to all students; and create a program to help promote Colorado food products and prepare school lunches using basic nutritious ingredients with minimal reliance on processed foods?
How would that work?
Prop FF creates a program to provide free lunches to all Colorado public school students and helps schools pay for lunches. It does this through a change in state law, the Colorado Revised Statutes, which raises $100 million a year.
The change does increase state taxable income, but only for people with federal taxable income of $300,000 or more. For this group, the measure would limit itemized or standard state income tax deductions to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers.
Who is for?
The pro side is led by Healthy School Meals for Colorado Studentsa coalition of parents, educators and hunger relief advocates.
They say the new program will provide free nutritious meals to all Colorado public schools by creating a statewide program.
It would support Colorado farmers and ranchers by reimbursing school districts for purchasing locally sourced food. The measure would help equip schools to prepare and serve healthy school meals, providing districts with grants to upgrade equipment and train staff to prepare healthy meals from scratch. It would also fund pay raises for frontline school cafeteria workers, helping schools deal with staffing shortages.
The measure would eliminate what the group described as arbitrary restrictions blocking the meals of starving children. Nearly 70,000 children in Colorado cannot afford school meals, but are also not eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Last year, temporary pandemic relief made all school meals free. As a result, many school districts in Colorado have seen a large increase, in the range of 20 to 40 percent more, in the number of students participating in school lunch programs, according to the group.
Finally, proponents say the measure will create a sustainable, long-term source of funding to provide free school meals for all. The $100 million raised each year would come from Colorado’s top 3% earners, those earning more than $300,000 a year, according to the group. If you do not earn as much, your taxes will not be impacted by this electoral measure.
Who is against?
There is no organized opposition to this measure.
However, in the official state voter guideopposition arguments include that the measure raises taxes for some households at a time when inflation is high and the cost of living is rising and that the state should not pay to feed children who can afford buy a school lunch or bring food from home.
Another opposition argument is that schools in Colorado are underfunded, and if voters want to raise taxes to help students, it would be better to give local school districts new funding to spend otherwise.
When lawmakers debated the measure, some Republicans voted against it. They argued in committee that high-income kids who don’t need the program could use it and that the money should fund school programs instead.
In its voter guide, the Independence Institute, a think tank advocating limited government, recommended a NO vote, saying “while we are sure that parents had access to free meals during the pandemic, this emergency has passed”. He also questioned whether raising taxes, even on the highest incomes, to fund free meals ‘for all in perpetuity is necessary’, especially as low-income students will continue to receive free meals. under current law.
Moreover, the common sense institutea nonpartisan free market think tank analyzed the measure and raised several concerns.
According to the group ballotmore Coloradans would be affected than the promoters said, 4.4% (instead of 3%). He revealed that if all Colorado public school authorities participated, an additional 615,000 students would now become eligible for free lunches, an increase of 125%.
Next year, 114,000 Colorado taxpayers will be taxed to pay for the program, with an increased average annual tax bill of nearly $1,000. Within a decade, the number of Coloradans paying for the program is expected to reach 339,000 taxpayers.
But according to the Common Sense Institute, its modeling found the funding might be more than needed or too little to fully fund it. Excess revenue could exceed $1 billion within a decade or be underfunded by $330 million annually, according to its ballot.
Proponents dispute this analysis, saying the institute appeared to multiply the cost of the program over ten years, rather than the year-to-year funding analysis that shows how the costs of the program are covered.
The proponents acknowledge that any remaining funding will go to the general fund, as any additional costs will flow from this. They say that based on the data and analysis carried out by the Legislative Council, these costs “will be minimal and the proposal will create a long-term program with long-term funding”.