In 1992 the people of Colorado voted to amend their Constitution with adoption of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). This was a historic initiative that put the power in the hands of the people to decide for themselves whether to approve new taxes or tax-hikes. While many states have constitutional protections to prevent new or increased taxes—such as California’s requirement of a supermajority vote in the legislature—Colorado’s TABOR was unique in that it made the citizens of the state the final word on new taxes or increased taxes. TABOR therein served as a model that has been implemented through constitutional amendments in other states, and which NFIB has supported as a means of protecting small business owners from new and ingenious taxing schemes. But TABOR is under attack—and this may have profound implications, not only in Colorado but throughout the country.
TABOR’s Legal Challenges
TABOR was upheld as constitutional in the Colorado Supreme Court last year in the face of a lawsuit advanced by educators and the parents of school-aged children who complained that TABOR makes it harder for schools to get necessary funding. NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed in that case to defend the law, and we were pleased to see the Court ultimately affirm the constitutionality of TABOR. But TABOR faces yet another challenge—this time in federal court. Continue reading
Earlier this month, you were saved by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Powerful political interests put Amendment 66, a yearly billion-dollar tax increase, on the Nov. 5 ballot and promoted it as a school-funding measure. Coloradans didn’t buy it. Despite millions spent promoting it, 66 was soundly defeated at the ballot box by almost 2-to-1. News media, pundits and pollsters reported Amendment 66’s defeat, but many lost sight of the only reason Coloradans got to vote on the measure: TABOR.
Coloradans had a powerful voice in this important decision for one reason only: the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. TABOR grants Colorado citizens the right to vote on any tax increase. “Want more money, Mr. Politician? OK, but you must ask us first!” An overwhelming majority of citizens determined that Amendment 66 did not offer the right trade-off between family budgets and government burden. The majority of Colorado voters also proved skeptical that just one more K-12 funding increase would solve the problem this time.
TABOR mandates that, when any Colorado government proposes new taxes or debt, that government must first ask voters’ approval. It is one more check in our American system of checks and balances. Continue reading
Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 12:00 am
I happen to know that in 2007, Denver was able to purchase Ford Crown Victoria police cars for about $15,000 apiece. Today, according to The Denver Post, it costs Denver about $40,000 to purchase and equip a midsize police car. This is just one example of the inflation affecting local government.
The city of Pueblo apparently has reached a crisis point in its ability to fund basic law enforcement, animal control and housing of city prisoners.
Most Coloradans are aware and approve of TABOR’s provision requiring voter approval of new or increased taxes. Many people are less aware of the internal restrictive mechanisms of TABOR that prohibit full collection of taxes even at those voter-approved tax rates. Last November, Denver voters
overwhelmingly approved a permanent elimination of TABOR from their city’s property tax collection. It is estimated that this action will provide Denver with an additional $40 million or so in revenue annually, without actually raising previously voter-approved tax rates.
In so doing, Denver joined the approximately 85 percent of Colorado municipalities and over 90 percent of school districts that have suspended or eliminated TABOR from their tax collection activities (while preserving
the right of voter approval of taxes). Both Pueblo County and Canon City, among other jurisdictions, have suspended the operation of TABOR in their jurisdictions for a period of years.
I suggest that it is time for the city of Pueblo to analyze whether suspending or eliminating TABOR with respect to its property and/or sales tax collection would provide enough additional revenue to address some of its current urgent needs. If so, I believe that the city should put this matter before the voters. Pueblo should stop being an outlier when its quality of life is at risk.
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
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