EDITORIAL: TABOR is a Colorado asset

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.

“It could be very bad for those places,” Buchanan told The Gazette. It is only bad if the people of those communities desire to maintain or increase government services, in which case they can vote to undo restrictions. It is good for “those places” if a majority of citizens want less government. Buchanan spoke of Referendum C, a voter-approved adjustment that did away with the ratchet in state spending, as something that would lead to “a more robust recovery.” A recovery for government, not for the economy. The two are not the same.

Former Mayor Lionel Rivera criticized TABOR’s spending limits, saying: “If a city grows and the population increases, you need to provide more services.”

Not necessarily. Lots of Colorado Springs residents believe city government provided too many services for too long and they are thankful for the ratchet. State Rep. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat who tried to repeal TABOR in 1996, said voters must repeal the law’s spending restrictions, “because otherwise, the state is going to hell in a hand basket.” Oh, really. The state — meaning the 5.1 million residents and tens of thousands of businesses — will apparently just disintegrate if government cannot keep pace with the private sector.

Rep. Court, the state government’s budget is not “the state.” A bit less hyperbole would go a long way toward enhancing your position.

What politicians despise about TABOR is the fact it makes them ask the governed just how much government they want. It makes politicians and bureaucrats genuine servants of the governed.

The political class complains about spending limits, yet there is not one limitation in TABOR that cannot be removed. If politicians want to spend more, they must ask the people who elected them to serve. That’s the entire point of TABOR. It allows the governed to determine the size and scope of the government they fund. The interests of the governed are all that should matter to those we elect to manage taxpayer funds.

That’s our view, so what’s yours? Please begin or contribute to a Facebook discussion below this article and vote in poll to the right.

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(c)2012 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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Copyright (c) 2012, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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