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“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.