Skimming over twenty words included in ballot questions can mean giving up your state constitutional rights—and consent over taxpayer refunds–forever.
Here’s the red flag: A tax hiking ballot question that says some variation of “…without regard to any spending, revenue raising, or other limitation contained within Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution.”
Let’s unpack that ballot language.
Article X, Section 20 is our Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Citizens put TABOR in our state Constitution because some politicians and bureaucrats detest citizens having a voice and despise asking for our consent.
There are several important taxpayer protections included in TABOR. One section limits government revenue. For a portion of the state budget, the tax revenue growth is limited to a formula of population growth plus inflation. For Colorado local governments, the tax revenue is limited to a formula of economic growth (such as new construction) plus inflation. When governments reach the revenue limit, the excess money must be refunded to taxpayers, unless voters give consent at the ballot for government to keep and spend that revenue.
But by voting yes on a measure that says “…without regard to any spending, revenue raising, or other limitation contained within Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution,” you’re giving up your constitutional right to a say over government revenue limits forever. That means no matter how big their pot of money grows, you won’t get a refund from over-collection, nor ever again be asked permission for them to keep it.
Here’s the part that’s really important to remember. The original supporters of TABOR never intended to allow for a permanent elimination of the revenue limits or forever giving up your rights to a refund. That’s why TABOR only allows for a four-year timeout before government officials have to ask voter consent again. One generation shouldn’t be able to abolish the rights of the next generation to vote.
Unfortunately, judges who frown on TABOR have created bastardized court rulings, though whether on purpose or due to faulty reading skills is still a mystery. How do we reverse their deceptive interpretation? That’s a tough road to go down. So, in the meantime, make sure you don’t give away your rights.
If you see a tax hike which forever eliminates government revenue limits and your rights to a refund, just vote no. It’s the right thing to do for future generations.
Natalie Menten is a long time political activist from Lakewood, and a former elected director at the Regional Transportation District (RTD)
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