The election results earlier this week made one point clear: People are tired of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and its stranglehold on progress.
Not only did voters in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs agree to allow cities to keep revenue in excess of the TABOR limits, the entire state voted 66-34 percent in favor of holding onto $66.6 million in marijuana revenue that will go to construction for rural K-12 public schools and other state needs.
Overall, it was a bad day for the anti-tax crowd — voters in the Springs overwhelmingly chose a 0.62-cent sales tax increase to fix deteriorating roads, allowing more money to be spent on stormwater fixes from the general fund budget. The increase was passed free of any TABOR restrictions. In a decisive move, Colorado Springs voters also opted to keep $2.1 million in revenue from fiscal year 2014 to be used for trail improvements. In Manitou Springs, voters allowed the city to keep excess revenue from recreational marijuana sales, and also extend trails and open space taxes as far out as 2032.
Voters rejected claims that Colorado Springs was mismanaging funds and that leaders like Mayor John Suthers couldn’t be trusted with additional money. Instead, they chose to invest in the city, its roads and its trails system — marking a sea change in fiscally conservative Colorado Springs.
And this week’s decision was vitally important. Businesses rely on sound roads, and economic development requires amenities that make the city an attractive place for businesses to choose to move to and expand their companies. In many ways, the local vote supported those goals — a recognition that Colorado Springs must invest in itself to compete on a global scale. After years of voting against stormwater or infrastructure improvements, it was the right decision at a crucial time.
Instead, they chose to invest in the city, its roads and its trails system.
That holds true across the state. Voters seemed willing to trust leaders to invest tax dollars wisely, allowing the state to keep money above TABOR limits. Maybe it really is time to de-Bruce Colorado Springs and the entire state, ending the decades-long constitutional amendment that requires Colorado governments to return revenue to taxpayers once it hits a certain level. TABOR prohibits saving for a rainy day — made clear from painful experience during the recent recession.
TABOR sent a message to elected leaders: Voters don’t trust you, even though you were elected to lead. It’s time to let state and local governments respond to changing needs and lift the TABOR revenue limits, while keeping requirements to have tax increases approved by voters.
Across the state, there is growing consensus that TABOR is harmful for Colorado, prohibiting infrastructure investment, restricting money for higher education, placing a larger burden on residents. As a statewide bipartisan group noted last month: There is growing support to end its restrictive grip on the state coffers.
Ending TABOR, of course, is up to voters in another election cycle. And TABOR supporters won’t be easily defeated. They’ll be watching to see how state and local leaders spend the additional revenue — and won’t hesitate to stoop to half-truths and outright lies to push their point, as they’ve done in the past.
So elected officials must be transparent, cautious and fiscally conservative to retain this advantage. They’ve been handed a mandate this week — it’s up to them to make the most of it.