I’ve got a four-word reason not to vote for Proposition 71, the Nov. 8 ballot issue that would make it harder to amend the Colorado Constitution.
Four words: Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
Now, understand: I agree with the sentiment behind Proposition 71. It’s just that voters should fear the likely result: a lifetime of TABOR.
I say this while admitting that proponents of 71 are right. The state constitution is too easy to amend. And TABOR is prima facie evidence of that.
Based on how TABOR has impacted Colorado, the last thing voters should want to do — particularly the voters of Fort Collins — is change the constitution in a way that makes it harder to amend TABOR out of it.
No, don’t make it harder to revoke bad fiscal policy. Give smart fiscal policy an even chance to win.
TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, is not just bad policy, it’s the worst policy Colorado voters ever conjured. Its spending limits impede lawmakers from making the most fundamental policy decisions, whether they involve highways or schools, water or the environment.
When bad economic times hit, state services get clobbered. When good times come around, those services are prevented from reclaiming what ground they lost. TABOR is to blame.
TABOR causes the state to do crazy things like ask voters for permission to spend money they’ve authorized. Right now Fort Collins voters are being asked that very thing.
TABOR is forcing Fort Collins to go to voters Nov. 8 to ask them to spend money they authorized in 2010 in the Keep Fort Collins Great sales tax hike.
The problem is that the initiative generated more money than projected. Under TABOR, the voters must consent to use it, or Fort Collins might be forced to refund as much as $10.8 million.
The same screwy dynamic was at play statewide last year when voters were asked whether they wanted to spend money reaped from marijuana taxes. Fortunately, voters said, “Yes, that’s just what we intended.” TABOR is simply stupid policy.
I have no problem with the terms laid out by Proposition 71: that the signature process be spread across all of Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts and that the proposition gain a super majority of 55 percent.
As soon as we revoke TABOR, whenever that happy day may be, then we should have a big parade, a collective high-five, and then vote to “raise the bar,” Proposition 71 does, against ridiculous constitutional amendments.
As for state spending limits: It should be sufficient to Colorado voters that the state balance its budget, which it must by law. If lawmakers want to go on a spending spree that means raising taxes wildly, voters have a remedy at the polls.
However, we elect people, whether they be in the General Assembly or the city council or the county commissioners or the school board, to decide what needs to be done and to do whatever that is.
Once again, because the bar was too low, we have TABOR. But we shouldn’t raise the bar until we have TABOR no more.
Coloradoan columnist John Young writes about state and local issues. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.