Dec 23

Two decades later, TABOR praised, blamed for limiting government

TABOR creator Douglas Bruce, pictured in 2005, says governments don’t have a clear license to tax voters whenever they want. (Denver Post file)

Twenty years after Coloradans approved the most restrictive tax and expenditure limitation in the country, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights has reshaped state government and sparked debate on similar proposals across the country and now is under greater assault than ever before.

At its inception, conservatives lauded TABOR for its promise to restrict the growth of government and to empower citizens. But its legacy has been one of near-constant controversy; it has never been completely replicated outside of Colorado; its defenders say TABOR foes have consistently tried to find work-arounds; and there have been a few supporters who have changed their minds about the constitutional amendment.

For most conservatives, TABOR’s

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20th anniversary is a moment to rejoice. 

“Colorado has largely stayed away from the fiscal cliff that states like California went over. That, in and of itself, is cause for celebrating TABOR,” said Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian-conservative Independence Institute. “It has required more transparency of government, and that is worth celebrating. And most importantly, it has angered every politician and ‘taking’ group because now they have to lobby all of us instead of just taking out a few legislators to dinner to get what they want.”

For liberals, the law acts more like an ever-tightening vise on state government.

Wade Buchanan, president of the liberal Bell Policy Center , says Colorado’s unique experiment has failed. Continue reading

Dec 13

New II Issue Paper Rebuts Myth that Citizen Review of Laws and Taxes Violates the Republican Form

By Rob Natelson**

If you are exposed to enough politics, sooner or later you’ll hear the old saw that the U.S. is “a republic and not a democracy.” Along with that saying goes the following claim: Allowing voter initiatives and referenda is unconstitutional: If a state lets voters enact laws or veto tax hikes, the state is too democratic to meet the Constitution’s mandate that it have a “republican form of government.”

A new Independence Institute Issue Paper, which I authored, examines those assertions in detail. The Paper shows that both are essentially myths.

The nation’s best-known measure requiring voter approval of most tax hikes is Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), adopted by the voters in 1992. This Issue Paper is published in response to a legal attack on TABOR: A group of government apologists has sued in federal court claiming that by limiting legislative control over fiscal measures, Colorado has violated the U.S. Constitution.

In a nutshell, the new Issue Paper finds:

* The American Founders did not firmly distinguish between a “republic” and a “democracy.” Some used the two words as if they were synonymous. Some adopted the view of Montesquieu that there were two kinds of republics: (1) Those controlled by a few (aristocracies) and (2) those controlled by the many (democracies).

* Dictionaries of the time defined “republic” as merely a popular government, as opposed to a monarchy. One encyclopedia-type dictionary included an article tracking Montesquieu’s definitions. Continue reading

Dec 07

City seeks opinions on potential TABOR ballot question

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – City Council hosted an open house to gather feedback on April’s potential TABOR ballot question.

In 2007, voters approved the use of Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights to fund construction on Riverside Parkway. Once the bill is paid, which could be as early as 2015, that approvile will expire.

‘Now, the city hopes to get voter permission once again in order for new projects and planning to begin.

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” said Clark Atkinson, Grand Junction resident who backs TABOR funding. “To stop investing in our capital improvements will result in a decay and put Grand Junction behind other communities, not only in the Western Slope but in Colorado and the whole region.”

“I think that we should just stop for awhile and maintain the infrastructure that we have,” said Richard Hathorne, local resident against TABOR funding, “put a good roof on it, paint it, fix the plumbing and electrical, and just idle for awhile. We don’t need anything new. Give us a break.”

Comment cards will be distributed through city utility bills early next week, or comments can be sent in through their website on the link listed below.

http://www.nbc11news.com/home/headlines/City-seeks-opinions-on-potential-TABOR-ballot-question–182477891.html

Dec 07

TABOR Input Needed

by KREX News Room by Danielle Kreutter

Story Updated: Dec 6, 2012 at 10:19 PM MST

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The city of Grand Junction has teamed up with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to hold an open house to gather feedback on the next TABOR decision.

As the previous Taxpayer Bill of Rights cycle comes to an end, officials are hoping to be proactive.

“We think right now we can do debt services of about $2.4 million and so we’re trying to identify a project if there is excess TABOR funds that come up in 2015,” said Jim Doody of the Grand Junction City Council.

They are asking voters if they were to exceed the TABOR limits set for sales tax revenue, would the voters prefer the extra funds be given back to them, or if they would like to see it invested back into the community. Continue reading

Nov 21

Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR)

The Axiom Report by Paul Swansen

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a concept advocated by conservative and free market libertarian groups. TABOR is promoted as a way of limiting the growth of government. It is not a charter of rights but a provision requiring that increases in overall tax revenue be tied to inflation and population increases unless larger increases are approved by referendum.

Colorado has the most well known instance of TABOR legislation. In 1992, the voters of Colorado approved a measure which amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution that restricts revenues for all levels of government including state, local, and schools. Under TABOR, state and local governments can’t raise tax rates without voter approval. Those same state and local governments can’t spend revenues collected under existing tax rates if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth, without voter approval. Revenues in excess of the TABOR limit, also known as a “TABOR surplus,” must be refunded to taxpayers, unless voters approve a revenue change as an offset in a referendum. Continue reading

Nov 18

Boulder ignores TABOR with new bag ‘fee’

 By 

As Erica Meltzer explained in the Daily Camera, Boulder staff had recommended a 20-cent “fee” per bag, but some council members “raised concerns about how the city had arrived at the 20-cent fee.”

Not surprisingly, Boulder boasted a study from consultants allegedly justifying even the higher tax. Continue reading

Nov 18

Colorado AG Suthers correct to appeal TABOR decision

By Rob Natelson

Guest Commentary

Attorney General John Suthers is correct to appeal a federal judge’s decision that allows the anti-TABOR lawsuit to continue.

The case arose when a group of government apologists sued in federal court to invalidate Colorado’s 20-year-old Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). That measure assures that voters have the final say over most state and local tax increases. The plaintiffs won an unexpected victory last month when Judge William J. Martinez found-despite U.S. Supreme Court precedent to the contrary-that most of their claims were “justiciable” (resolvable in court).

The plaintiffs contend that TABOR leaves Colorado without a “fully effective legislature”-a phrase apparently invented for the occasion. This, plaintiffs say, violates Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. That provision, known as the Guarantee Clause, guarantees to each state a “Republican Form of Government.”

The plaintiffs’ claim, however, is not well-researched. And the background of the Guarantee Clause reveals it to be absurd. Continue reading

Nov 18

TABOR AT 20: Anti-tax measure has huge impact

Oct. 28–This November, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights turns 20 years old.

TABOR, as it is commonly called, is beloved by those who want to limit government. Its various provisions are broad and arcane, but the most well-known one — which many citizens love — prohibits Colorado governments, from the state on down to school districts, from raising taxes without a vote of the people.

TABOR has also become the bane of many Democrats who want to protect public services. Depending on who you talk to, TABOR has either been a great ally of Coloradans or their worst enemy.

TABOR is the most restrictive government fiscal limitation in the country and has had perhaps the biggest impact on Colorado of any ballot measure in state history, several experts said. It amended the state Constitution, and it can’t be repealed without getting voters to OK at least two ballot measures. Continue reading

Nov 18

EDITORIAL: TABOR is a Colorado asset

Oct. 31–Critics are using the 20th anniversary of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to bash the voter-approved constitutional amendment as something devastating to our state. They talk as if government budgets and the economy are one in the same. Fund governments more, and we’re good to go. Fund them less, and it somehow amounts to an economic crisis.

Take, for example, comments in a Monday Gazette news story by Wade Buchanan, president of the nonprofit Bell Policy Center. Buchanan explained how TABOR causes a “ratchet effect.” TABOR limits growth in government revenues and spending with a formula that is based on spending in prior years. When recession strikes, government spending and revenues decrease. When the economy recovers, governments are limited by a formula that ties them to recession-era revenues and spending.

Advocates of less government think it’s a brilliant way of achieving their goal. Politicians and bureaucrats tend to hate the ratchet, as it prevents local governments — in jurisdictions where taxpayers have not voted to opt out of TABOR restrictions — from benefiting from economic recovery. Continue reading

Nov 18

TABOR has decimated education, critics say

Oct. 29–More than one Colorado political expert has said that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights has had more effect on state government than any other ballot measure in the state’s history.

TABOR, as the 20-year-old voter-approved measure is known, has been felt across the state during two recessions. It’s best known for restricting Colorado governments — from the state down to school districts — from increasing taxes without a vote of the people. The measure was added to the state Constitution on Election Day in 1992.

It also uses a formula to cap state spending.

TABOR is so bulletproof that it motivated many Republicans to join with Colorado Democrats in 2005 to push an anti-TABOR ballot measure, called Referendum C. The measure allowed the state to keep almost $4 billion that would have otherwise been refunded to taxpayers, and it altered TABOR’s formula to give the state an easier time in the future by easing spending caps.

But the referendum didn’t restore the billions of dollars in government revenue TABOR had cut off since 1992. Love it or hate it, you can’t dispute how TABOR has changed government over the past two decades. Continue reading