Colorado votes to raise taxes on some for free universal school lunches

Colorado voters passed Proposition FF on Tuesday, which will raise state taxes on high-income households to make free school lunches available to all students.

Although the results have yet to be certified, with most votes reported by Wednesday morning 55% of Coloradans voted in favor of the proposition.

Under the current program that the proposition replaces, just over 30% of students are eligible for free meals, with another 6% of students receiving school meals at a reduced price. Advocates of the proposition claimed another 7% of students cannot afford school meals but are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the current system.

Rather than simply changing eligibility standards, the newly passed proposition creates an entirely new system for free school meals, including subsidies for school food service salaries and the purchase of locally sourced foods. 

The new program, which may cost as much as $100 million in its first year alone, will be funded by reducing tax deductions for households earning $300,000 or more. The high-income households funding the program already pay the lion’s share of taxes in Colorado, including a third of state taxes and almost half of federal taxes. 

While high-income earners may face higher tax bills in the future, on Tuesday Coloradans also passed Proposition 121, reducing the state income tax rate by 0.15%.