The editorial board of the Denver Post thinks it’s (mostly) a good thing that a part of the state Constitution has died.
They’re wrong twice.
First, despite what the newspaper claims, it’s not a good thing that state lawmakers have done everything they can to kill Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which requires voter approval before state and local legislative bodies can impose or raise taxes
Praise for the notion that “lawmakers are now willing to work around” the constitutional provision sounds odd coming from an institution – the press – that depends on constitutional protections for its very existence.
When governments have acted to squelch First Amendment protections, for example, the Post did not rush into print with an editorial praising officials’ willingness to “work around” the freedom of the press.
And the paper would have been wrong to do so. We are not free to pick and choose which parts of the constitution we will follow, and neither are our elected representatives.
But, aside from being wrong when it praises lawmakers for ignoring their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution, the Post is wrong in another way.
TABOR isn’t dead, practically or otherwise.
Simply because one session of the legislature has decided to ignore the will of the people and the state Constitution doesn’t mean that situation is going to continue indefinitely.
State Senator Rachel Zenzinger was probably closer to the mark when she asserted that lawmakers had “put a dent” in TABOR.
But a dent is not a death. As anyone who has ever experienced a fender-bender can tell you, dents can be repaired, especially if you’re committed to your car.
The people of Colorado have repeatedly shown that we are committed to TABOR.
And we also are committed to making our voices heard on the subject, beginning with the original 1992 voter approval that added TABOR to the state Constitution.
Just last year, voters emphatically endorsed tougher rules to keep politicians from violating the spirit of the constitution. In 2018, voters rejected not one but two road-funding proposals.
Now lawmakers have gone ahead and violated the spirit of TABOR anyway. Perhaps they thought we wouldn’t notice.
Well, we noticed, and I would bet that millions of other Coloradans will notice, too.
What inspires politicians to go to such lengths? Growing government and spending more, of course.
The Post proclaims support for the excessive spending in this year’s budget. “It makes one wonder where, exactly, all the money is coming from,” the paper says.
Let me enlighten you. It’s coming from those “whining” taxpayers who foot the bill for state government and cling to the notion – apparently outdated in the editorial offices of the Denver Post – that swearing an oath to uphold the constitution still means something.
Governor Jared Polis has said that “TABOR shouldn’t be an excuse not to solve problems.”
He’s right about that. But those problems still need to be solved within the bounds of the Constitution. Solving problems involves recognizing both the limits of governmental authority and the limits of what government can actually achieve.
Our elected officials seem to have forgotten both this year.
So, for now, perhaps, as the Post editorialized, “Gone are the days of whining about the crushing effects of TABOR.”
But the Post and the politicians would be well served to remember that today is not forever. Those “whining” taxpayers the Post and the legislature and the governor have so little regard for might yet get the last word.
Jesse Mallory is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Colorado.
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