TABOR, or the “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights” makes Colorado unique for having the most restrictive tax legislation in the country. We have one of the strongest economies in the U.S., but we have some of the worst roads and infrastructure and our state’s budget is 48th in comparison to our economy. In fact CDOT hasn’t seen a budget increase since 1992 (the year TABOR went into effect). Our schools continue to struggle for funding and are routinely undercut resulting in sub-par rates compared to where they should be for a state with our economic strength. Even though we have under 2% unemployment, we still can’t seem to find the money for roads and schools- the most basic public services.
This all began with a man named Douglas Bruce, a Californian landlord who moved to Colorado because he wanted to find a place with lower taxes and turn his new state into a conservative paradise for himself. He later became a slumlord here, managing low-rent properties where he was routinely sued for failing to meet his obligations as a landlord. Bruce is a known racist, once referring to migrant workers as “illiterate peasants” on the House floor, and to top it all off he’s a convicted felon, having been convicted – of all things- of tax evasion. So how did this man craft the policy that restricts Colorado from using its tax dollars like every other state government? Well, essentially, he swindled us.
Bruce ran multiple campaigns to convince voters that all TABOR would do would be to give them a voice in how their tax dollars were spent. But in reality, what it did was much more sinister. TABOR prevents the state from raising any taxes without putting it to the voters, and it does it in such a way that it almost guarantees that no tax increase will ever be passed. This is great for slumlords like Bruce, but bad for everyone else in the state. Now it means that the only way the state can generate increased revenue is to either pass “sin taxes” on items like liquor and cannabis, or to institute large fees on things like car tags and drivers’ licenses that severely impact average Coloradans. Even with these the state is running short on cash. Budget cuts on things like higher education mean that more and more money must come from tuition, and we may see Colorado become the first state to end state financial aid to students because of it. Of course education is a negative thing to people like Bruce, who rely on people being uneducated to further their agendas. It also prevents us from being able to use our boom times to prepare for inevitable economic downturns, as we’ve seen during the rough years during the Great Recession. Instead, if the state takes in too much revenue they have to give it back in the form of small checks. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have decent roads than a check for $25.
It’s time to overturn this disastrous bill and restore sanity to the way Colorado does business. We need to be able to prepare for economic downturns and invest in our state, our youth and our infrastructure. We need to ensure that our public institutions of higher learning stay open. We need to be able to provide for the health and welfare of our people. We need to stop being taken in by charlatans and criminals who are really only looking out for themselves and take us down for their own self-interest. It’s time for Colorado to take care of itself. It’s time to say goodbye to TABOR.