- October 7, 2019
Some people bemoan the lack of trust in government officials. Those people should read more. They could start by learning how many of Colorado’s officials ruthlessly manipulate ballot language to mislead voters and skew election results.
Jefferson County’s Ballot Issue 1A—up for a vote next month—is a case in point.
Issue 1A is a referendum under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR requires officials to ask voter permission, via referendum, for several kinds of fiscal decisions. The most important are (1) raising taxes, (2) creating debt, and (3) waiving caps on government spending (which TABOR sometimes confusingly calls “revenue”).
Knowing that government officials sometimes try to manipulate elections, the TABOR drafters inserted rules governing how tax and debt issues appear on the ballot. But they omitted similar rules for elections to waive spending caps.
The reasons for the omission are not clear. Perhaps it was an oversight. Or perhaps the drafters thought rules were unnecessary, because waivers were to last a maximum of four years. If a waiver was abused, the abuse would soon be over and voters could hold the guilty officials accountable.
But in 2002, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a case seriously misinterpreting TABOR. The court ruled that once the voters in a particular locale approve a spending cap waiver, the waiver does not necessarily expire. The waiver may specify five years, or seven, or ten. If it does not contain an ending date, the waiver lasts forever. TABOR spending caps never apply in that locale again.
Do not give politicians a blank check. They have proven unable to manage what they already have.
Colorado is not a low-tax state where politicians scrape to fund basic services. Our state did not make Kiplinger’s top-10 list of the most tax-friendly states this year, released last week, despite having a one-of-a-kind Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution. Weakening this protection, as Proposition CC would do, will only make things worse.
GUEST COLUMN: Voters should defend their TABOR refunds
- Thomas Aiello
Oct 5, 2019
Last year, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected last year’s ballot measure that amounted to a multibillion-dollar tax increase on families and businesses. But taxpayers beware: pro-tax activists are back on the ballot again this November with a measure to weaken Colorado’s historic Taxpayer Bill of Rights, so that they can more easily pass tax increases in the future.
This year’s ballot measure is Proposition CC, which would alter TABOR in a way that would take money out of taxpayers’ pockets. Since it was approved by voters in 1992, TABOR has provided Coloradans with the strongest set of taxpayer protections in the country. By guaranteeing refunds of excessive taxes, restricting spending to sensible growth rates, and giving Coloradans the ability to vote on tax increases, TABOR has been instrumental in the state’s booming economy. Without TABOR, Colorado would likely not be one of the fastest growing states in the country, even as the state continues to rank high on measurements of public health and education.
Since TABOR limits the amount of money the state is allowed to spend, surplus revenue in excess of the cap must be refunded to Colorado taxpayers. Generally, the revenue cap on the state level grows with inflation plus population increases. Due to a strong economy, however, revenue collections are coming in above the caps, which means the state will have to refund about $500 million to Colorado taxpayers next year, and about $1.3 billion over the next three years. For millions of taxpayers across the state, these refunds could help cover a week’s worth of groceries, family activities, or even help to pay some rent.
But as of now, potentially $1.3 billion in refunds to taxpayers are in limbo and could be scrapped forever.
“On Sunday, the Denver Post endorsed a “NO” vote on Proposition CC on the ballot this fall. Although the Post editorial board has not changed its historic support for ever more and higher taxes, even they could not overlook how terribly flawed and poorly thought-out this measure is.”
November 2019 Ballot Measure Will Decide Fate Of All Future Taxpayer Refunds In Colorado
The ultimate debate over the refunding of surplus revenue to taxpayers is taking place in Colorado, home to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), a law that requires surplus revenue collected in excess of the rate of population growth plus inflation be returned to Colorado taxpayers.
Thanks to a strong economy, revenue collections have been coming in well-above the TABOR spending cap, meaning that roughly $650 million is scheduled to be refunded to Colorado taxpayers. Proposition CC, a measure referred to the November 2019 ballot by Governor Jared Polis (D) and Democrats who run the Colorado Legislature, would stop that scheduled refund, and all future refunds.
Passage of Proposition CC would gut TABOR, guaranteeing a higher state tax burden in the future, even if all tax increases would still be subject to voter approval.
“Prop CC says you agree to give up your tax refunds not for just this year, not for the next four years, but forever,” Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, writes in the Denver Post this week. “No future generation will be able to give or withhold their consent over their tax refunds…Our children’s children’s children will never get a TABOR refund. Nor even be asked.”