What’s your opinion of Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution? I suspect the reply of the overwhelming majority of Coloradans to that question would be: “Huh?” But hold that thought.
If you’re a Colorado taxpayer, you better get a firm grip on your wallet. Once again, the forces of unlimited government and the folks who know how to spend your money better than you do are after it. The dragon they want to slay for the umpteenth time is commonly known as TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
This was an amendment added to the state constitution via a ballot question by a direct vote of the people in the general election of 1992. It limits spending by all levels of government under a formula that considers population growth and inflation. It also requires approval by the voters for tax increases. While still in the ballot-question womb and from the moment of its birth, TABOR has been generally supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats. To circumvent TABOR, Democrat governors and legislators have sometimes gotten away with the charade of disguising tax increases as new “fees.”
The latest attack on TABOR is a ballot question, Proposition CC, which the Democrat majority in the legislature has already approved for the 2019 ballot. It would allow our state government to withhold the current budget surplus that TABOR would otherwise require be refunded to taxpayers.
But Prop CC is just the warm-up for the death blow which will come in the general election of November 2020. TABOR opponents have launched a petition drive seeking 120,000 signatures to place a ballot question before the voters in that election to once and for all drive a stake through TABOR’s heart. The brains behind this repeal strategy is the Colorado Fiscal Institute, a left-wing think tank with unbridled faith in big government.
One bump on the road to TABOR repeal is the matter of the exact language to be used in briefly describing the issue in the title of that ballot question. This has often been a sticking point in past elections with advocates on both sides of issues complaining about confusing or misleading wording. The arbiter of these disputes is the Colorado Title Board.
The language proposed by Carol Hedges, executive director of the anti-TABOR Colorado Fiscal Institute, would simply refer to the repeal of “Article X, Section 20” of the Colorado Constitution. Hedges argued, “Any voter that doesn’t know what Article X, Section 20 is, will go to the Colorado Constitution and learn what it’s about.” Apparently, she has incredible self control making that statement with a straight face.
Natalie Menton, a TABOR supporter, proposed language that mentions TABOR by name and briefly describes what it does. Arguing against Hedges’ proposal, Menton told the board, “99.5 percent of the people out there are not going to have any clue what’s being referenced.”
When Democrats and progressives (pretty much one and the same) have repeatedly attacked TABOR over the last quarter century, they’ve always called their demon by its name. I’ve never heard one of them cry out for an end to Article X, Section 20! Heaven forbid that Coloradans, when they vote yes or no on their printed ballot, would actually see the word “TABOR,” the name they’ve always known it by.
Wisely, the board, in a 3-0 vote, settled on this title: “An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the repeal of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution.”
Sounds to me like transparency won and obfuscation lost. However, aping the manner of the anti-Trump “Resistance,” Hedges is “resisting” that outcome. She said her group will request a rehearing by the title board, and if the board doesn’t give them a title they like, they may petition to the state Supreme Court.
With a Democrat governor, a Democrat majority in both the Colorado House and Senate, a Democrat Secretary of State, Democrat Attorney General and Democrat Treasurer, Democrats have a virtual monopoly on the levers of elected political power in state government. TABOR is our last line of defense for fiscal responsibility. It has protected us from the kind of runaway government spending that has pushed other states like California, Illinois and Connecticut to the brink of insolvency. If Coloradans ever truly see the need to raise their taxes, under TABOR they can vote for it. We’d be wise not to give it up.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.