Will a TABOR Tune-up Proposal Reach Colorado Voters?
DENVER - Colorado voters could be asked to update the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a 25-year-old constitutional amendment, if House Bill 1187 passes.
The measure would change the formula that limits how much the state can invest in roads and schools by linking economic growth to how much people earn instead of the price of consumer goods and the state population. Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, the bill's co-sponsor, said the proposal is in sync with the spirit of TABOR, which mandates that voters approve spending increases.
"Absolutely, the voters should decide," he said. "And I would ask if there's any policy that you have in your business or your personal life that you don't evaluate after 25 years - I suspect you always do - and I think it's time to re-evaluate this one."
Thurlow said the current formula doesn't account for items on which the state actually spends money. According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, since TABOR, the cost of consumer goods has gone up by 64 percent but the cost of road construction has more than doubled, and education costs are up 207 percent.
Thurlow said he believes the current formula is one reason the state now ranks 48th nationally in high-school graduation rates. As a result of TABOR, he said, when the economy expands and spending contracts, taxpayers get refunds but critical infrastructure needs go unmet. The state is set to give $270 million back to Colorado residents this year, but Thurlow said it doesn't add up to much when split among more than 5 million people.
"My contention," he said, "is that if the voters look at this - and that's what the proposal does, it sends it to the ballot and the voters get to choose - that they will choose to invest in the future of our state rather than getting a $30 or $40 refund back."
House Bill 1187 was introduced this week. A hearing is scheduled in the House Finance Committee on Feb. 27. Details of the bill are online at leg.colorado.gov.