The issue: TABOR, as is, damages Colorado’s finances.
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What we think: Vote in November to end revenue caps.
In November, voters will have the chance to undo the most damaging provision of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which hurts the state’s finances, its economy and its ability to plan its financial future.
Voters will decide whether to allow the state to keep excess tax revenue above a cap calculated annually based on the prior fiscal year’s revenue limit and factors of inflation and population growth. The ballot measure that will come from House Bill 1257 preserves residents’ rights to weigh in on any tax increases.
We all know how well TABOR worked during the Great Recession: Unable to maintain spending levels, the state slashed some programs, ended others and created problems for small businesses and our most vulnerable residents.
TABOR, crafted by local gadfly Doug Bruce, has been a thorn in the side of local businesses and governments since it started in the 1990s. (You remember Doug: He went to prison for tax evasion, and then went back a second time for violating parole.)
Basically, TABOR has two rules, only one of which proves worthwhile. The first requires a vote of the people before governments levy new taxes. That’s a good thing; an excellent way to control government spending. (We all know what happens when the controls are off…)
The second rule cripples governments. It ties the hands of people making decisions with state dollars so that funding for anything outside of Medicaid and prisons could be impossible in the future — those programs can’t be cut and they continue to grow. With the revenue caps in place, the programs cut include arts, higher education, and safety net programs.
The actions of another piece of legislation, House Bill 1258, are contingent on voters approving the ballot measure to retain excess tax revenue. It allocates that money for higher education, public schools, roads, bridges and transit.
Having extra money means we could invest in future firefighting, economic development, business growth and job training. We could more easily maintain government services during the next inevitable downturn.
Colorado Springs stands with just a handful of local governments that haven’t already “De-Bruced.” Of the state’s 272 municipalities, 230 have ended TABOR revenue caps. Of the state’s 64 counties, 51 have received voter approval to retain and spend excess revenue. And only four of the 178 school districts still abide by TABOR caps.
Of course, Doug Bruce lives here, and we’re strong believers in conservative fiscal policy in Colorado Springs. (Maybe city and county leaders are afraid of Bruce’s infamous temper? He did kick a photographer during the opening session of the Legislature in 2008.) But the mass exodus from TABOR’s revenue restrictions across the state tells the real story: It’s harmful to local government and local businesses.
We should hold government accountable by making sure we agree with plans to increase spending.
But we should vote to rescind the provisions that hamstring decision-making and end the onerous revenue caps. Let our leaders do the job we elected them to do: Lead.