The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent order in the case against Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a devastating blow to those seeking to overturn that part of the state constitution. The Supreme Court’s order amounts to a polite directive to the lower court to dismiss the suit.
Colorado voters approved TABOR in 1992. It offers several protections for Colorado’s financial health. It allows voter review when legislative bodies pass increases in taxes or debt, or adopt unusually high increases in spending. Under TABOR, the state legislature and local councils continue to initiate all financial measures, but the people are allowed to review some of them.
Four years ago, 34 plaintiffs, including a handful of state lawmakers, sued in federal court to have TABOR declared void. They argued that allowing the people to` check the legislature’s financial powers violated the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That’s the section that says that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
The plaintiffs’ claims are not entirely consistent with each other. But their essence is that because TABOR reduced the financial power of the state legislature, it rendered Colorado a “direct democracy” without a “Republican Form of Government.”
From its inception, the plaintiffs’ case has teetered on the edge of probability. Its legal problems are many.