“Truth and reason in ballot language!”
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights includes good government provisions that improve election procedures.
There was a time when Colorado elected officials could push for passage of a bond, or for new taxes, but bury the cost very deep into the explanation on the ballot, in hopes that many voters might not notice the magnitude of the tax.
The ballot language would promise all kinds of wonderful outcomes. Not only would the new revenues for the government solve the problem in perpetuity, but it would bring world peace and even make the voter more handsome! Then, near the end in the midst of a lot of other promises, would come the information that the cost to the taxpayer would be very, very high.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights stopped that sort of game playing. Now, the government must put the cost right up front. It has no option but to state how much the new tax will weigh annually on the taxpayer. For a new bond, the ballot measure must state at the very beginning how much the total new debt will be and what that means for the total repayment cost. Only then may the government (“district”) present its reasons for the new taxes.
Another game that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights anticipated and which it explicitly prohibits is a government underestimating a revenue number. If the new taxes exceed the estimate, the entirety of the overage must be refunded the next year and the rate adjusted downward.
Colorado constitution (Article X, Section 20), paragraph 3(c) states: “Ballot titles shall begin, ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) TAXES BE INCREASED ____ ANNUALLY?’ (or) ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) DEBT BE INCREASED (principal amount) WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF (maximum..)’.” Earlier in the same paragraph is the requirement that “if a tax increase exceeds any estimate… for the same fiscal year, the tax increase is thereafter reduced up to 100% in proportion to the …excess, and the combined excess revenue refunded….”
The paragraph was carefully crafted as a good government improvement, with TABOR protecting the taxpayer in ways beyond just voting on tax rates.