Where Are Our TABOR Refunds?

Where Are Our TABOR Refunds?

May 16, 2019

There are two very telling graphs that I wanted to share regarding our state budget, which has grown more than $10 BILLION in the last decade.

Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Colorado, revenue collected by the state above a constitutionally-mandated limit must be refunded to the taxpayers. TABOR gives us the right to vote on tax increases and to control government growth. Colorado is the only state in the nation with TABOR, and has been consistently ranked as the best economy in the nation. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

The first graph I want to share shows how Referendum C, passed by voters in 2005 to temporarily allow the government to keep and use our tax refunds, resulted in a permanent increase in state spending.

The Referendum C five year “time-out” period not only allowed the government to keep taxpayer refunds temporarily, it permanently reset the revenue limit at the amount equal to the highest amount of revenue collected during the five year period, which happened in 2007-2008. It automatically moved the goal line for Colorado taxpayers back by about $2 billion, and has been increasing ever since.

This is extremely important and relevant for Colorado taxpayers right now because there will be a ballot issue on this November’s ballot to permanently get rid of the TABOR spending limit and tax refunds.

This is money that would otherwise go to the taxpayer, so calling it anything other than a tax increase is misleading.

The second graph gives more insight into how politicians have been able to work around spending limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by using enterprises, fees, and other exempt revenue sources.

Enterprises include self-supporting government-owned businesses like public universities that collect tuition, or state parks that collect entry fees. Over time, lawyers have argued that an increasing list of businesses fall under the “enterprise” umbrella. As you can see, enterprises have come to make up a significant and growing portion of our state spending, and because they fall outside of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, they aren’t subject to taxpayer approval.

For more information and to view the source of these graphs click here.

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