A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s 21-year old Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) could have dire implications for constitutional restraints on spending and taxation in almost every other state, including Maine.
At issue is the very essence of republican self-government.
The case – Kerr v. Colorado – is winding its way through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is representing the state against individual plaintiffs. The plaintiffs in the case – 34 current and former state legislators and local officials, mostly Democrats – are arguing that when a state constitution or legislature permits the people to vote on revenue measures and other laws, this violates the U.S. Constitution’s Guarantee Clause (Article IV, Section 4).
Specifically, the lawsuit’s claim is that limits on the Colorado state legislature’s fiscal powers, such as TABOR, violate the U.S. Constitution’s “republican form of government” or “guarantee” clause. This argument relies on a sharp distinction between a republic and democracy to invalidate citizen’s initiatives and ballot referenda restricting the spending and taxing powers of the state legislature. Continue reading
Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 12:00 am
I happen to know that in 2007, Denver was able to purchase Ford Crown Victoria police cars for about $15,000 apiece. Today, according to The Denver Post, it costs Denver about $40,000 to purchase and equip a midsize police car. This is just one example of the inflation affecting local government.
The city of Pueblo apparently has reached a crisis point in its ability to fund basic law enforcement, animal control and housing of city prisoners.
Most Coloradans are aware and approve of TABOR’s provision requiring voter approval of new or increased taxes. Many people are less aware of the internal restrictive mechanisms of TABOR that prohibit full collection of taxes even at those voter-approved tax rates. Last November, Denver voters
overwhelmingly approved a permanent elimination of TABOR from their city’s property tax collection. It is estimated that this action will provide Denver with an additional $40 million or so in revenue annually, without actually raising previously voter-approved tax rates.
In so doing, Denver joined the approximately 85 percent of Colorado municipalities and over 90 percent of school districts that have suspended or eliminated TABOR from their tax collection activities (while preserving
the right of voter approval of taxes). Both Pueblo County and Canon City, among other jurisdictions, have suspended the operation of TABOR in their jurisdictions for a period of years.
I suggest that it is time for the city of Pueblo to analyze whether suspending or eliminating TABOR with respect to its property and/or sales tax collection would provide enough additional revenue to address some of its current urgent needs. If so, I believe that the city should put this matter before the voters. Pueblo should stop being an outlier when its quality of life is at risk.