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Colorado voters suspend key provision of TABOR

After suffering through 13 years of massive budget cuts under the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Colorado voters fought back Tuesday (November 1, 2005), approving a ballot measure that suspends a central provision of TABOR.

The measure, called Referendum C, passed with 52% of the vote. It lets the state keep an estimated $3.7 billion in revenue that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers over the next five years. The state will use the money for roads, schools, health care and pensions.

TABOR is a measure that severely restricts how much money local and state governments can raise and spend. It was passed in Colorado with much ballyhoo about how it would keep taxes down. However, it led to massive budget cuts that have devastated government services throughout the state.

Many Republican legislative leaders in Wisconsin have been working for several years on developing a TABOR constitutional amendment. They have said they will reintroduce such a measure next year.

TABOR opponents have said repeatedly that it would cause severe long-term harm to Wisconsin’s great schools by further restricting funding for already cash-strapped school districts.

"Colorado voters have sent the message that their experience with TABOR has been a very bad one," said WEAC President Stan Johnson. "TABOR is fundamentally flawed and reckless fiscal policy. It would cause long-term, irreparable harm to our great schools, and we want nothing to do with it here in Wisconsin."

The measure approved by Colorado voters uses a mechanism in TABOR that allows voters at any government level to allow government to keep and spend surplus revenue. Most school districts, towns, and cities, and many counties in Colorado have asked voters to approve such measures over the 13 years of TABOR. Generally, the voters have easily approved the requests, nicknamed "DeBrucing" after Doug Bruce, the anti-government author of TABOR. But this was the first time a statewide measure sought permission for the same thing.

The effort to pass Referendum C was the biggest bipartisan political effort in Colorado's history – Republican Governor Bill Owens and the Democrat-controlled Legislature referred the issue to the voters through a cooperative effort in May.

Colorado Education Association members worked with a statewide coalition of more than 1,000 organizations and businesses to pass both Referendum C and Referendum D, which was narrowly defeated. Referendum D would have permitted the state to sell bonds for road projects and other more minor things.

Resource page on tax gimmicks

Posted November 2, 2005

Education News