Colorado voters were saved by TABOR

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.

It is clear the General Assembly would have gotten the decision wrong. If TABOR had not been in place to give the taxpayer a voice, the legislature would have gone forward with these ideas on its own. In spite of proponents’ best efforts, including overwhelming campaign expenditures to convince voters to accept a massive tax increase without any apparent accountability, voters were able to express their common sense and reject the Amendment 66 proposals. Without TABOR, their voice would never have been respected or even heard.

In 1992, Coloradans wisely recognized that government growth was accelerating, diverting more and more resources from the productive private sector. This trend risked putting more power in the hands of politicians and government bureaucrats at the expense of jobs, prosperity and freedom itself. The people’s only tool to stop the unrelenting growth of government was the vote. Voting for or against politicians, however, regardless of party, proved an inadequate restraint on government growth. So Coloradans approved a state constitutional amendment that gave taxpayers final authority to approve tax increases.

As a tax-limitation measure, TABOR says to our representatives, “Respect us. Ask us; don’t tell us.” It also helps control spending by setting a revenue threshold: the current year’s revenue adjusted for inflation plus population growth. If more taxes are collected above that threshold, that money must be returned to the taxpayers. Thus, Coloradans are protected from runaway state government spending. We also enjoy the full benefit of a prosperous economy because our productivity is not siphoned off by government. Moreover, TABOR limits the influence of special interests who seek favor at the public trough.

TABOR has saved us untold billions of wasted dollars since 1993. It protected Colorado from the kind of economic disasters we see in California, Detroit, and even Greece, all of which resulted from unrestrained government spending.

But something far greater than money has been saved. TABOR saves our freedom by limiting government’s reach into our lives.

Coloradans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that legislators must return to the drawing-board and devise better ideas. Let us acknowledge that the opportunity to reflect, to examine and to weigh any tax proposal would not have been available if we did not have TABOR’s constitutional protection for the taxpayer in place.

Donald Beezley and Penn R. Pfiffner serve on the Board of the TABOR Committee. They are both former state legislators. Brian Vande Krol also contributed to this essay.

Read more: Colorado voters were saved by TABOR – The Denver Post
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