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What kinds of control on government spending growth work? February 18, 2008

Posted by davekopel in TABOR.
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A new article in the Cato Journal, by Robert Krol, examines various strategies for limiting government spending growth. He finds several methods to have proven success: Tax and Expenditure Limits (such as those in Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights), balanced budget requirements (a long-standing requirement in Colorado), and citizen initiatives (part of the Colorado Constitution since the early 20th century). In contrast, two methods have been shown not to work: Rainy Day Funds (which are often used to avoid tax and spend limitations), and term limits (which are actually associated with higher spending; legislative, but not gubernatorial, term limits are associated with lower taxation).

Date Set for Tax Hike Showdown February 11, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, TABOR.
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Face the State has the latest on the court case requesting a vote of the people on Gov. Bill Ritter’s statewide property tax increase:

The State Board of Education, claiming that CDE is the wrong agency to be targeted, has asked the court to be removed as a defendant. Meanwhile, Ritter has sought to intervene as defendant. A Denver District Court hearing has been set for May 5.

State Board of Education member Bob Schaffer, R-Fort Collins, believes Ritter has a lot at stake in the courts’ pending decision, having approved a property tax hike over the objections of the state’s attorney general.

“He has a clear interest in proving the attorney general wrong,” said Schaffer. “While the massive tax increase bill was passing, the legislature and governor understood that they were likely in violation of the law and the constitution.”

I know, I know. The money from the property tax increase is supposed to be “for the children.” Clearly, since I want to honor the state constitution and have the people of Colorado vote first, this makes me very cold and heartless person. (more…)

“Great Caesar’s Ghost!”: Exposing Knee-Jerk Tax Increases “For the Children” January 24, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, TABOR.
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On the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel site, Rick Wagner takes a club to the constant screams of interest groups for more money to fund K-12 education. Most amusing was this hypothetical dialogue and subsequent comment:

Government: “There’s a crisis in education. Something must be done immediately! The children’s achievement level is shocking. All that can be known with certainty is that it has nothing to do with my prior policies and the only solution is more money.”

Taxpayer: “Is that really the solution? Maybe we should look at our methods first.”

Government: “Great Caesar’s Ghost man! There is no time for that. We need money now! Why do you hate children?”

When we pursue questions about why achievement is so lacking, we are usually rewarded with a discussion having something to do with Bush, TABOR, Reagan, evil conservatives and tax cuts for the wealthy.

The actual problem in Colorado is that we have a system under the disastrous Amendment 23 that requires increased education funding no matter what the result. How many successful systems exist that are premised on a continuous increase in resources unrestricted by results?

It’s an important reminder that lawmakers and bureaucrats have an easier time accessing the taxpayer’s pocketbook when they frame the issue in the interest of schools and children. It worked for Amendment 23. More recently, Gov. Ritter did just that with his statewide property tax increase, but didn’t even bother to ask the voters as the state constitution requires.

Of course, our schools need some amount of resources to function well. But seldom if ever do you see any serious ideas about restructuring the education system to ensure money is spent with a high level of efficiency. The results are there to show that spending more has very little or no relationship with academic performance or growth.

Yet as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, you can expect cries for more money based on some calculation that compares our state to the national average of education spending in some area or another. Is the national average of educational performance better than in Colorado? Not exactly. Well, then, somebody has got some explaining to do.

Colorado spends more than $9,000 per student in our K-12 public schools. Is the money really being spent as wisely as it could be, if we just had the political will to fix the system? The sad answer is it takes less political will to cajole a little more money from each of us than to do the hard work of reform.

Property Tax Revenue Estimate More Than Doubles January 9, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, Referendum C, TABOR.
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From the Denver Post today comes staggering, but not altogether surprising, news:

Gov. Bill Ritter’s property-tax freeze will generate an estimated $2 billion more over 10 years than lawmakers were expecting when they approved it eight months ago, according to the latest calculations.

The revenue leap fired up Republican lawmakers — who were already calling the freeze an “illegal tax hike” — as the legislature convenes today for its 2008 session.

The freeze, which prevents local property taxes for schools from dropping, is now projected to result in nearly $3.8 billion in state money by 2017. That’s more than double the $1.74 billion estimated when lawmakers passed the governor’s proposal in May. [Emphasis added]

Depending on which school district your home or business inhabits, this means even twice the pain for your wallet than previously estimated. Sounds like a rerun of the Referendum C story.

We can’t forget that it is Gov. Bill Ritter and the Democratic Party who own this unconstitutional proposal (i.e., they should have asked the voters first!). They’ve tried dodging the argument and playing dumb. But all lawmakers and public officials need to be kept accountable to the taxpayers they represent.

Cross posted at Ritter Watch

“Constitutional conundrum” = “Colorado taxpayers, beware!” January 2, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Referendum C, TABOR.
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Featured in today’s Rocky Mountain News under the header “Constitutional conundrum” is a story highlighting lawmakers’ efforts to simplify the Colorado state constitution. And when I say “simplify,” I mean gut the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Or as new State Rep. Doug Bruce colorfully put it:

“They talk about fixing the system the way a vet would fix your pet,” the Colorado Springs Republican said. “They want to emasculate it.”

We’re a little more than two years past the passage of the permanent tax increase known as Referendum C (latest estimated price tag = $10 billion). In 2005 state officials and tax-consuming interest groups crossed the state preaching their jeremiads of doom and gloom if voters should reject Ref C. They didn’t tell us that a narrow victory for Ref C generating more than twice the predicted revenue, would also be a prescription for a crisis. But here they go again:

The price of doing nothing today could be that five years from now, the University of Colorado will be privatized, elementary school students will be using old textbooks and the plan to reform health care will have lost momentum, [Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver] said. “People will say the General Assembly saw this coming in 2008 and didn’t do anything about it.”

The next paragraph is perplexing, in light of the article’s content:

Most legislators agree the constitution’s biggest problem is the number of financial provisions that interest groups have convinced voters and lawmakers to approve.

Most of the article is focused on assailing the taxpayer-friendly TABOR, while giving the budget-busting Amendment 23 – mandating spending increases at the behest of an interest-group lobby – mere passing attention. That sets the stage for state Democrat leaders to inject the tired solution of another tax increase to “solve” the alleged problem:

Most agree there is no good way to revise the constitution. Lawmakers made the job harder for themselves when they passed a “single subject rule” for citizen initiatives and legislatively referred ballot measures, to stop wide-ranging initiatives such as TABOR from ever hitting the ballot again.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, has proposed asking voters to lift that rule. The exception would apply only to the constitution, and only for a set period of time. It would allow lawmakers to return to voters in a subsequent year with a fiscally revised constitution that they could vote up or down.

Groff backs that idea as a good first step. It would give lawmakers the opening they need to deal comprehensively with the internal fiscal conflicts of the constitution, he said. Then, two or three years from now, the legislature could think about putting “maybe a son or a cousin or a mother-in-law of Ref C” back on the ballot, he said.

Colorado taxpayers, beware: state officials have a three-year plan for you and your money.

Referendum C revenue will be $10 billion. Insatiable spenders say “Not enough.” December 26, 2007

Posted by davekopel in Referendum C, TABOR.
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An editorial in today’s Pueblo Chieftan reminds us that when referendum C was first promoted, the advocates claimed that it would raise $3 billion. Later, they raised the estimate to $3.75 billion. As the Independence Institute pointed out at the time, the 3.75B was implausible, because revenues from the oil and gas severance tax were soaring. Now, it turns out that ref C will raise an extra 10 billion dollars in taxes. Although the ref C advocates dishonestly described ref C as as “temporary” “five-year” “time-out” from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the effect of ref C will be a permanent increase in state government taxing and spending levels allowed under the state Constitution. And yet, $10 billion extra dollars, over five years, plus billions and billions more in perpetuity, is not enough for the tax consumer lobby, which is gearing up to push another tax increase on the 2008 ballot.

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