Breathe easy, taxpayers. The Denver Post’s big-government dinosaur, Bob Ewegen, informs us “the good folks” are finally back in charge — i.e., those who want to make it easiest for government to spend every last dime are back in charge at the state capitol and taxpayers are about to take it in the shorts. Ewegen is, of course, cheerleading for what he hopes will be the death knell for Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) — a ballot initiative championed by outgoing Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff and State Treasurer Cary Kennedy.
The initiative would gut everything that remains of TABOR after Referendum C, except the taxpayers’ right to vote on tax increases — or at least the right to vote on anything the legislature and governor admit are “tax increases,” as opposed to tax increases they deceptively call tax “freezes” or “fee increases.”
Ewegen falsely asserts for the umpteenth time that, when Ref C expires, TABOR will rise from the ashes, baring its fangs to devour all that remains of state government. This, of course, is rubbish.
Ref C not only allowed state government spending to rebound after the recession by repealing the TABOR spending limit entirely for five years, but it also repealed permanently what Ewegen tirelessly refers to as the “notorious ratchet effect.” Except Ewegen conveniently ignores that fact.
In plain English, allowable state government spending under TABOR (even after Ref C) will grow every year to accommodate inflation and population growth. Even if state revenues dip due to an economic slowdown, the TABOR spending limit grow higher and higher so that another Ref C is never necessary — based, at least, on the justifications of Ref C proponents in 2005.
Back then, the argument was that TABOR would permanently lock state government spending into recessionary levels from which the budget could never recover no matter how well the economy rebounded.
However, a key provision of Ref C says that after the five years of budgeting without guardrails, the state legislature can then calculate future spending limits based on the highest of those five years multiplied by automatic increases for inflation plus population. Had that provision been written into TABOR originally, spending could have rebounded to approximately current levels without Ref C.
Ewegen clairvoyantly declares that the Romanoff-Kennedy plan “locks in the core of TABOR by guaranteeing that you have the right to vote on all tax increases.” It’s curious that an ardent TABOR-hater claims to know what voters who passed TABOR really intended — despite polls showing that voters clearly wanted more than just the right to vote on tax increases.
So, after voters gave state government permission to spend $3.7 billion of TABOR surplus — a figure that ballooned to $6.1 billion thanks to a booming economy — Ewegen now thinks voters should permanently surrender their authority to cap state spending. Never mind that even state economists dispute Ewegen’s fallacious claim that TABOR will “resume chipping away at state government” when Ref C expires.
Oh well, Ewegen obviously subscribes to the Don Quixote dictum, “Facts are the enemy of truth.”