Michael Fields: Thankful our state has TABOR
Printed in The Gazette
October 16, 2018
Wonder why ballots are so long in Colorado? Part of the reason is because of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
This constitutional amendment does two things:
1) It requires a vote of the people to raise taxes, and 2) It limits revenue growth to inflation plus population growth. Put simply, to grow government, a majority of voters must agree that there is a compelling case to do so.
This year, a lot of politicians and special interests want to raise your taxes. So, let’s take a moment to be thankful Coloradans have TABOR — and the right to say “yes” or “no.”
When Colorado’s ballot initiative process was first being debated in the early 20th century, former President Teddy Roosevelt weighed in, saying, “I believe in the right of the people to rule. I believe that a majority of the plain people of the United States will, day in and day out, make fewer mistakes in governing themselves than any smaller class…no matter what their training.”
Belief in the wisdom of the “plain people” is at the heart of our democracy, and at the heart of TABOR.
Tax increases sometimes do pass — mainly on the local level — when politicians prove they’re accountable and can responsibly manage the money for a worthwhile community goal.
But since TABOR’s inception, Coloradans have voted down statewide tax increases by overwhelming margins — sending a strong message: don’t take more of our hard-earned money until you’re more effective and efficient with what you have.
Opponents of TABOR seem to want unchecked access to our paychecks. But Coloradans have shown time after time that they like having a say in the size of government, and they like being able to hold politicians accountable. This is why TABOR is more popular than ever.
When TABOR was passed, liberals challenged that it would cause economic chaos and would shut Colorado business down.
Instead, in the last 26 years, Colorado has risen to the number one economy in the nation.
Our economy is stronger than ever, and it’s not a coincidence.
There are two massive statewide tax hikes on your ballot this year — Amendment 73 & Proposition 110. Neither is specific in how your tax dollars will be spent, but both appeal to what voters have said are top priorities — education and infrastructure funding. When these new taxes are defeated, the Legislature will get the message: stop kicking the can down the road and prioritize our $30 billion state budget to fund what’s most important to Coloradans.
There is a lot at stake for the future of Colorado, and every race on the ballot is important.
But TABOR, and our constitutional right to vote on tax increases, means that no matter which politicians are elected, none of them can raise our taxes without asking the people of Colorado. This is a win for all Coloradans.
When you get your ballot in the mail, remember to vote. And remember to be thankful that our state has a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Michael Fields is Colorado Rising Action’s executive director.