Sep 02

CSU study finds 80 percent of Colorado taxpayers pay more because of TABOR

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was supposed to keep money in people’s pockets, but 80 percent of Coloradans actually pay more in taxes to supplement their local schools, according to a study released Tuesday by the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University.

“Since the early 1990s, Colorado has enacted layers of reform in pursuit of two conflicting goals – lower property taxes and well-funded public schools,” said Phyllis Resnick, lead economist at the center and lead author of a paper the research for the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, “Measuring the Impact of Tax and Expenditure Limits on Public School Finance in Colorado.”The Lincoln Institute is a private think tank that studies land taxes and use.

“The result is greater inequality and inconsistency, and surprisingly, a greater tax burden for most Coloradans.”

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Sep 02

Carroll: Averting a Colorado budget smashup

Why don’t we save the esteemed Dan Ritchie and his bipartisan group of civic-minded bigwigs a lot of time and trouble?

The former chancellor at the University of Denver and his allies who’ve founded Building a Better Colorado are going to spend months in meetings and outreach trying to identify measures for next year’s ballot to address the unique challenges in governing this state.

They’ve got former governors, senators and mayors on board, not to mention current Gov. John Hickenlooper.


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Apr 26

As session wraps up, major work remains for Colorado lawmakers

Colorado lawmakers begin a mad dash to the finish next week with more than a dozen significant bills in limbo and the session’s clock set to expire.

The final flurry before the May 6 adjournment is typical each session, but this year it is complicated by a divided legislature seeking elusive common ground on a wide range of issues and a series of late bills with huge implications.

The new bills include a repeal of the sales tax on soft drinks, a new$3.5 billion transportation bonds package, two resolutions to cut the length of the legislative session, an opt-out for mail ballots, the renewal of a state consumer watchdog and a ballot measure on how to spend $58 million of marijuana taxes.

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Mar 27

The Commanding Heights

This is the story of how the new global economy was born, a century-long battle as to which would control the commanding heights of the world’s economies — governments or markets; the story of intellectual combat over which economic system would truly benefit mankind; the story of epic political struggles to implant those ideas on the nations of the world.

For more than half a century the battle of ideas will rage. From the totalitarian socialist systems to the fascist states, from the independent nations of the developing world to the mixed economies of Europe and the regulated capitalism of the United States, government planning will gradually take over the commanding heights.

But in the 1970s, with Keynesian theory at its height and communism fully entrenched, economic stagnation sets in on all sides. When a British grocer’s daughter and a former Hollywood actor become heads of state, they join forces around the ideas of Hayek, and new political and economic policies begin to transform the world.


  1. Chapter 1: Prologue [2:45]
  2. Chapter 2: The Old Order Fails [8:11]
  3. Chapter 3: Communism on the Heights [6:16]
  4. Chapter 4: A Capitalist Collapse [8:48]
  5. Chapter 5: Global Depression [5:26]
  6. Chapter 6: Worldwide War [7:00]
  7. Chapter 7: Planning the Peace [6:47]
  8. Chapter 8: Pilgrim Mountain [3:43]
  9. Chapter 9: Germany’s Bold Move [4:11]
  10. Chapter 10: India’s Way [3:51]
  11. Chapter 11: Chicago Against The Tide [7:32]
  12. Chapter 12: The Specter of Stagflation [6:34]
  13. Chapter 13: A Mixed Economy Flounders [8:36]
  14. Chapter 14: Deregulation Takes Off [7:29]
  15. Chapter 15: Thatcher Takes the Helm [3:50]
  16. Chapter 16: Reagan Rides In [8:17]
  17. Chapter 17: War in the South Atlantic [1:41]
  18. Chapter 18: The Heights Go Up for Sale [8:08]
  19. Chapter 19: The Battle Decided? [3:26]

Mar 27

Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act

As an interesting side note, while TABOR is well-known in Colorado, relatively few states have a similar government spending limit mechanism in their constitutions.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) actually has a model bill that is based on Colorado’s TABOR amendment that lawmakers in other states can pick up, make minor changes to, and introduce in their own jurisdictions.  We would bet there are constituents in many states who would appreciate a cap on their legislature’s wanton spending.

Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act


The Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act recognizes the important tradeoff between constraints on the growth of state and local government, and the provision of adequate reserves to meet emergencies and to stabilize budgets over the business cycle. The Act is a constitutional provision designed to accomplish these objectives. The Act links a tax and spending limit to an emergency reserve fund and a budget stabilization fund. The Act also provides for temporary reductions in tax rates and/or tax rebates when surplus revenue accumulates above the tax and spending limit, and the cap on the emergency reserve fund and the budget stabilization reserve fund.

Model Policy

{Title, enacting clause, etc.}

Section 1. {Election Provisions} For any fiscal year that commences on or after____ state and local government districts must have voter approval in advance for any new tax rate increase, mill levy above that for the prior year, valuation for assessment ratio increase for a property class, or extension of an expiring tax, any markup on products sold through state-controlled enterprises, or a tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district. Voter approval is also required for creation of any multi-fiscal year direct or indirect district debt or other financial obligation without adequate present cash reserves pledged irrevocably and held for payments in all future years, except for refinancing district bonded debt at a lower interest rate or adding new employees to existing district pension plans. Voter approval is also required for suspension of the spending limits imposed by this Act. Continue reading

Mar 10

Lessons from 30 Years of TEL Experience

Yes, you can get involved in your city or state.  TABOR gives citizens the right to vote yes or no on the government increasing your taxes.  To learn more, send an email to

The first tax and expenditure limitation (TEL) was proposed by California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. In the years since then, numerous states have adopted TELs. By studying these laws, we have discovered principles and design concepts for effective tax limitation.

State TELS

In spring 1978, under the leadership of State Rep. David Copeland, the people of Tennessee adopted the first constitutional tax limitation measure in the nation, the work product of a state constitutional convention.

Then came Proposition 13 in California in June 1978. While not itself a TEL (it was primarily a limitation on the growth of property taxes), Prop. 13 was the catalyst that ignited a national tax revolt. Things began to happen quickly across the country:

  • Arizona, under the leadership of then-Senate Majority Leader Sandra Day O’Connor, adopted a TEL referendum in 1978.
  • In November 1978, Michigan adopted the Headlee Amendment, which restricted state spending as a share of personal income.
  • In 1979, California adopted a Prop. 1-type TEL (the Gann Limit) that for the first time limited the growth of state spending by measuring it against inflation and population or per-capita personal income growth, instead of a percentage of state personal income growth, which really tightened the year-over-year control over taxes and government spending.
  • Also in 1979, Washington State adopted a TEL (Initiative 62).
  • In 1980, Missouri adopted the Hancock Amendment, again using a percentage of state personal income growth as the measure.
  • In 1980, Massachusetts’s Prop. 2 ½ drew heavily on the language of California’s Prop. 1 in order to control the growth of local governments.

Lessons Learned

Many other states have since adopted constitutional or statutory controls. But many were not tough enough or sufficiently well enforced or honored to be effective. Circumvention began in earnest in Missouri as the legislature and courts played games with the revenue base and school financing. In California in 1989, wily Assembly Speaker Willie Brown corrupted the Gann Limit formula in a statewide initiative devoted to improving California’s roads and highways. Continue reading

Dec 16

Ahead of second term, Hickenlooper strikes sober tone on state budget needs

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday delivered his fourth State of the State address. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

A month before his second term, Gov. John Hickenlooper is painting a bleak picture of Colorado’s future budget situation, even as he touts the state’s improving economic fortunes.

“We are going to have real difficult challenges in terms of how we address pretty much any basic infrastructure (spending need): transportation, K-12 education, higher education, healthcare,” he told the Denver Forum at a luncheon Tuesday. “Some of the things we’ve taken for granted and counted on in terms of our quality of life, we probably won’t be able to continue to afford.”

The reason for the strife, as the Democrat made clear, is the state’s constitutional spending limit known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. It’s politically volatile to point the finger at TABOR and Hickenlooper sought to walk a fine line as he raised the stakes.

Next year, Colorado lawmakers are anticipating budgeting taxpayer refunds because the state’s revenues are exceeding the inflation-plus-population-growth-cap for the first time in 15 years.

Unless lawmakers seek to keep the money (which is an idea being floated at the Capitol), the refunds will go out the door even as the state struggles to meet its constitutional requirement to fund education under what is known as Amendment 23. The state is short $900 million on education funding, according to analysts.

“Amendment 23 requires us to spend more. TABOR requires us to spend less. It really is a Gordian knot,” he said.

Hickenlooper expects this to come to a head two years from now, when refunds are expected to continue and grow.

Continue reading

Nov 27

California’s experience makes economic, political benefits of Colorado’s TABOR clear

Rapid growth in the Colorado economy will increase state revenue in excess of the TABOR limit. Colorado’s TABOR constitutional amendment limits the growth of state revenue to the sum of population growth plus inflation; surplus revenue above that limit must be refunded to taxpayers.

Legislative analysts estimate $137 million in TABOR refunds for the next fiscal year. In the following year the state must offset surplus revenue with a temporary income tax rate reduction estimated at $234 million. Given the range of error in these estimates, the average Colorado household should expect to get somewhere between $50 and $100 per year in TABOR refunds.

Continue reading

Mar 15

Colorado residents may get a refund for pot tax

Why this pot business deodorizes its cash 

Why this pot business deodorizes its cash

Colorado residents could see some green in their pockets thanks to the new recreational marijuana taxes.

Budget advisers to the state legislature crunched the numbers and revealed the state could be forced to refund as much as $100 million to taxpayers.

The state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, known as TABOR, sets limits on taxes and government spending. If the government collects more than expected, it generally owes taxpayers a refund.

But Colorado taxpayers shouldn’t expect a refund check in the mail. The state has several other procedures to handle a refund.

The state could provide taxpayers a credit on the next year’s tax bill, for example, or reduce the sales tax. Continue reading