TABOR Emergency Taxes at the State level
Emergency taxes are a contingency written into the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. In response to the decline in revenues due to the pandemic economic shutdown, activists on the Left are urging new and higher taxes using the emergency taxes clause. Unfortunately, the General Assembly has put itself into an impossible situation that will prevent the imposition of any State emergency taxes. Legislators’ dishonest dealings in good times removes this option today.
Emergency taxes may not be imposed unless emergency reserves are depleted is the explicitly stated rule within TABOR.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights mandates that the State set aside at least 3 percent of fiscal year spending. This would effectively be a rainy day fund, to be used in emergencies only. Any right-thinking person following the rules would expect the emergency money to be in cash (or near-cash assets), so the funds could be accessed readily in a declared emergency. If the legislature had done its job, there would be liquid assets available for the emergency.
The legislature over the years, starting in 2003, errantly and with malignant intent to get around the rules, designated state government buildings (yes, buildings) as nearly half the assets that make up the emergency reserves. Fast forward to 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis, which is when such an emergency fund may be needed. How can this General Assembly access the reserves?!? It can’t, or should not, and will not, sell off the buildings identified as the assets in the reserve, which include six State buildings north and south of the Capitol, and a parking garage. Find a list of the assets below.
Because the assets cannot be turned into cash, the emergency reserve cannot be depleted. Because the legislature cannot fulfill the mandated precondition to use up the emergency reserves this year, it is precluded from imposing emergency taxes!
 Article X, Section 20 (TABOR), paragraph 6b