Back in January, I gave you a heads up that a battle was brewing over TABOR – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Well, the battle is on! The Democrats continue to make it clear that they would like to keep the money to spend where they feel it would be best. Republicans are maintaining their position of wanting to give the money back to the taxpayers in accordance with how the people voted in 1992.
The Democrats are seizing every opportunity to demonize TABOR as the reason there is no revenue available to fund state programs. Republicans are quick to point out the fact that the General Fund has increased its expenditures $2.9 billion (with a B!) since 2009, so there must not be a lack of dollars. The battle is beginning to infiltrate committee action in the House.
In my Finance Committee meetings, the Chair (Rep. Court: D- Denver) has unilaterally established a “policy” forcing any bill getting through the Finance Committee to have a three-year sunset clause. I do not believe that sunset clauses are a bad thing. In fact, I try to include a five-year sunset clause in many of my bills. The problem with a three-year sunset is many programs cannot be established and prove themselves (or not) in three years. A three-year sunset will create a surge of “unworkable” laws to hit the Legislature in three years. What could be the cause of the fiscal failure? Voila – TABOR! The regular lectures have reached the point where I usually ask Rep. Court, “Are we are going to get the ‘TABOR Sermon’ today?”
Stay tuned on this one…
Three big items loom large on the horizon which will all “poke” the TABOR giant. The first item is the March Revenue Forecast for Colorado. The March forecast will give us an idea of how much revenue is available to fund the State budget. The second item is building the state budget itself (known as the Long Bill because it is really LONG!). And, the final item, the School Finance Act. School Finance requires nearly 40 percent of the entire General Fund. The second half of the session will prove to be interesting…
Two bills I am co-sponsoring moved another step forward in the process this week. HB15-1170: “Increasing Postsecondary And Workforce Readiness” (co-sponsored by Rep. Kraft-Tharp: D-District 29) passed the Education Committee on a 10-1 vote. HB15-1180, another bill I am co-sponsoring with Rep. Kraft-Tharp passed the House Finance committee unanimously Thursday. HB15-1180 would provide a tax incentive to small companies (fewer than 35 employees) in the Med Tech and Clean Tech industries. Did I mention the three-year sunset Rep. Kraft-Tharp and I had to add to HB15-1180 to get it through the Finance Committee?
We bit the bullet and consented to the three-year sunset. I did comment to the Chair and the Committee on my legislative beliefs. I simply stated, “I understand your concerns over TABOR and your passion about three-year sunsets. However, I firmly believe good legislation is good legislation. I do not believe our agenda should be driven by Chicken Little. If things go south, we will deal with it like legislatures before us — I think that is what we are supposed to do.”
We are at the midpoint of the 120-day legislative session. The first half of the session has been dominated by legislators scrambling to get bi-partisan support for their bills. The second half of the session will be a “battle over bucks.” When money is involved, friendships tend to dissolve … Please feel free to contact us at (303) 866-2747 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to check up on how things are progressing under the Golden Dome.
Jim Wilson is the House District 60 representative.