Colorado raises taxes on the wealthy to expand universal free school lunch program

On Nov. 8, Coloradans overwhelmingly voted “yes” to Proposition FF, which expands its universal free school lunch program by limiting deductions on employees earning more than $300,000.

As a result, starting in the 2023-2024 school year, Colorado will create the Healthy School Meals for All program, allowing all school children to receive free breakfast and lunch, regardless of household income. Moreover, the passage of the FF proposal shows that voters in Colorado are increasingly willing to raise taxes to fund social programs.

In the past, Colorado voters have shown little desire to raise taxes. In 1992, they went so far as to establish the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which limits the revenues governments can keep and spend, and requires voter approval for tax increases. As a result, since the implementation of TABOR, 25 statewide ballot measures with tax implications have been submitted for voter approval. Only six passed.

But in 2020, Colorado voters bucked precedent and approved a paid family and medical leave proposal by popular vote. And on November 8, 2022, Colorado voters said yes to the FF proposal.

Expanded school meals

Before the FF proposal was passed, Colorado already had a free school lunch program. Specifically, all students from Colorado families with incomes below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines were eligible for free meals. Students from families earning less than 185% were eligible for discounted meals. However, for students eligible for discounted meals, the state covered the student’s share of the cost, making the meal free for the student.

A cafeteria worker oversees lunches for school children at Normandie Avenue Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles, California on December 2, 2010. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Additionally, for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, public school students across the country had access to free school meals when the federal government suspended its eligibility requirements. But that dissolved in August.

In response, the Colorado State Legislature returned the FF proposal to the ballot through Bill 1414. And with 92% declared as of Nov. 11, Colorado residents voted 55.8% to 44 .2% to adopt the proposal FF.

Proposal FF

Beginning in 2023, Proposal FF limits state income tax deductions to $12,000 for single filers or $16,000 for joint filers and applies to standard or itemized deductions. This limit applies to any household earning more than $300,000 per year. Notably, itemized deductions are often charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes.

Therefore, if a couple previously claimed $50,000 in itemized deductions, their state taxes will increase by $1,547 under the measure. As a result, the FF proposal will generate an additional $100.7 million in state tax revenue in 2023, the first year the tax measure takes effect. Additionally, because voters approved the FF proposal, the revenue generated will not be subject to Colorado’s constitutional revenue limits. The FF proposal will also be used to increase the salaries of employees serving school meals.

Prior to its passage, supporters of the FF proposal argued that “even if a student can afford to bring in or pay for a meal, the measure will remove an everyday financial concern from families’ plates,” the ballot said. from Colorado.

Conversely, opponents of the proposal have argued that the measure saps money from the economy and that families invest their money as they see fit. They also said that “the state should not pay to feed children who can afford to buy a school lunch or bring food from home.”

Epoch Times Photo
Christy Cusick distributes free school lunches to children and their parents at Olympic Hills Elementary School in Seattle, Washington on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Yet proponents of the FF proposal have argued that children who suffer from hunger have “lower grades than their peers and are more likely to struggle with behavioral issues and experience emotional health issues, mental and physical”.

That argument seemed to resonate with Colorado voters, who voted in favor of the FF proposal, adding it to the list of taxpayer-funded social programs.

In November 2020, Colorado voters approved a proposal, effective January 1, 2023, requiring employers and employees in Colorado to contribute 0.9% of employee wages to an insurance program run by the State. If an employee earns $104,000 per year, the employer and employee will pay $468 to the insurance program for a combined total payment of $936 per year.

As a result, starting in 2024, if a Colorado employee has a medical event, they can take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and receive up to $1,100 per week in pay, depending on their salary. . Anyone employed for 180 days and earning at least $2,500 is eligible as long as the organization employs at least 10 people.

Katie Spence


Katie covers energy and politics for The Epoch Times. Prior to beginning her journalism career, Katie proudly served in the Air Force as an Airborne Operations Technician on JSTARS. She received her degree in Analytical Philosophy and a minor in Cognitive Studies from the University of Colorado. Katie’s writing has appeared on, The Maverick Observer, The Motley Fool, First Quarter Finance, The Cheat Sheet and Email her at [email protected]

Christy J. Olson