Under the scrutiny of the national media, John Hickenlooper’s official campaign for President has gotten off to a rocky start. Most of the national media coverage following his announcement has focused on his refusal to be labeled a capitalist during an interview on MSNBC. In a characteristic Colorado style, local TV anchor Kyle Clark tweeted, “’I may be a capitalist,’ @Hickenlooper writes. His 180 turned into a 360 now a 540. That’s @SeanWhite-level rotation.”
In his prepared launch video, and in media appearances since then, Colorado’s former governor has been regularly touting his role in Colorado’s booming economy. It’s true that Colorado has been ranked as the nation’s #1 economy. We’re consistently on lists of the best places to live and work in the U.S., and we attract hundreds of thousands of new residents every year.
Still, the fact is that our economy isn’t thriving because of John Hickenlooper. In actuality, a majority of the credit goes to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) – a unique law that allows Coloradans to vote on any and all tax increase.
It’s a simple concept – lawmakers have to make the case to voters in order to get more of their hard-earned money. TABOR also provides guardrails for the size of government. State spending still grows every year, but it’s limited to inflation plus population growth. The end result of TABOR is to keep the government truly serving the people.
Giving the say to the voters means that we admittedly make the lives of state lawmakers more difficult by limiting their spending ability, and requiring them to work harder to prioritize the budget. It’s worked well for Colorado. In fact, TABOR enjoys 71% support in this purple state.
An interesting thing happened in last year’s election. In Colorado, voters elected Democrats down the ballot, but they also voted down significant tax increases by large margins. In fact, the last six statewide tax increases on the ballot in Colorado have been voted down, resulting in billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. These tax increases would have driven out small businesses and taken money out of the pockets of hardworking men and women supporting their families. John Hickenlooper supported many of these tax increases, and even campaigned hard for some. Luckily voters had the ability to overrule his bad judgement.
What makes Colorado’s economy so strong? We have great people and businesses. We also have enough oil and gas in the state to attract energy companies and bring $30 billion each year into the state’s economy. TABOR creates a stable and predictable business environment that attracts new business. Recent reports that states like Illinois and New York are hemorrhaging residents and businesses are cautionary tales of how it could be without TABOR. Here in Colorado, we don’t let our Legislators tax us out of prosperity.
While John Hickenlooper is looking for feathers in his hat for his presidential campaign, he can leave out Colorado’s economy. We owe that primarily to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Michael Fields is the executive director of Colorado Rising Action.