DENVER — TABOR Foundation Board of Directors member Natalie Menten is hoping she can encourage a fired-up electorate this year to take advantage of a little-known Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) clause that often goes unused. TABOR is a constitutional amendment passed in 1992 that, among other things, subjects local ballot measures which increase taxes, add debt, or suspend government revenue limits to a ballot issue notice. The notice is an election guide that that is sent at least 30-days before the election to all households within the district where there are one or more registered voters.
In that book are both pro and con statements. What most people don’t know, however, Menten said, is those statements can be written by anyone who lives in that district. They must be 500 words or less and the name of the person who authored the statement is not included with the statement.
The idea was to give everyone a voice in sharing their opinions without fear of repercussion. But it’s rarely used. Early in TABOR’s history, Menten said, about 50 percent of the time people submitted statements.
Every year Menten does open records requests on some of Colorado’s largest cities and towns to see what’s on the ballot and then seeks out people to write the statements. She estimates the return is up to about 80 percent of the ballot issues.
“It gives me heartache to see a local ballot issue notice, and no one submit before the deadline happens,” Menten said. “People need to see how that measure will impact them. When a ballot issue starts with ‘without raising taxes,’ the hairs on the back of your neck should go up because what the government is seeking to do is eliminate your taxpayer protections.”
Menten was referring to are caps under TABOR that limit the amount of revenue any taxing authority can collect.
“That was not the intent of TABOR, so you have the right to submit a comment in the guide that you are giving up your rights forever if the measure passes,” she said. “TABOR’s intent was to only allow a temporary lift of revenue limits for four years. They never wanted to take away the choice of a future generation. We need people to speak up in the voter guide. Don’t give up your right to vote forever.”
Deadline for submission is Friday, Sept. 17 by noon to the designated election official for the government placing the measure on the ballot.
“A large chunk of these will drive up property taxes,” Menten said. “Maybe some can afford it, but are you sure the senior citizen down the block can afford it? Think outside your own financial scenario; not everyone is as blessed, many are struggling.”
Menten added that once the guide is out there, it empowers those who get involved in writing the notices to speak at local neighborhood gatherings about the issues
“It makes them the one that is speaking up for the little guy who can’t attend the meeting because he has to work,” Menten said.
Complete Colorado recently published an opinion piece by Menten giving complete instructions on how to write and submit the statements. She said people interested can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for more help.
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