I listened to Gov. Bill Ritter's State of the State speech with anticipation the other day, and we have reason to be concerned. According to the Governor, we need to "invest...despite these tough economic times", and get rid of spending and tax limitations which the Taxpayers Bill of Rights [TABOR] has effectively secured. Ritter wants to extend the spending increases of Referendum C from 2005 and continue seeking changes in TABOR's limitations on taxing and spending. Here’s a quote from his speech:
"As I’ve said before, a budget is a moral document that should reflect our values. . . . There is also an opportunity here – a chance to address TABOR and the constitutional and statutory straitjacket that makes modern, sensible and value-based budgeting an impossibility."
The Governor, though, has left some questions unasked in this statement. Whose values determine what a “sensible” budget is? I know for most Colorado families, a sensible budget is the smallest one possible where they can meet their monthly needs. If their income suddenly decreases or they can't keep up with their credit card payments. Something has to give. They are forced to cut back their spending. Is this the value-based approach to budgeting the Governor finds “sensible”? Or is the “straightjacket” of TABOR, as he implies, keeping him from spending more of our money.
He argues that we have many challenges ahead, but he proposes get rid of TABOR to deal with them. He hopes to remove TABOR's restraints so that he can build a "modern" (read: bloated) government. It seems to be a pattern we are following all over the country: in times of crisis, turn to government for help. Of course, Colorado is faring much better than other states like California which are begging the Congress to bail them out. And TABOR has played a big part in keeping us from going into the tank like they have when huge budgets meet decreasing tax revenues in these tough times.
Americans for Prosperity is going to continue the fight to make this case publicly with your help. When citizens come out in a show of force like they did for us last year, it sends a message to our politicians that we Coloradans will not accept an ever increasing government.
What is a modern budget, Governor Ritter? Does that include ever increasing spending and expanding government services? Or are there some limits to the amount of government we need? Governor Ritter said that when he and other Governors met with Senator Obama in November, the President-elect said, “. . . it would take courage and a strong federal-state partnership to get America back on the path to long-term prosperity.” When has a federal-state government partnership ever made us more prosperous? Does government bring prosperity or do the people and their spirit of ingenuity? These are the questions advocates of government action never seem to ask.
Our left-leaning Congress and State General Assembly will attempt to push the limits expanding government’s role in our economy. Unfortunately, that's what Republicans did when they had the Congress and paid the price at the ballot box. You can be assured that we will oppose any changes to TABOR and any further expansion of government spending beyond the limits imposed by TABOR whether proposed by Republicans or Democrats. But we will need your help to put pressure on our elected representatives to hold the line on spending.
First of all, AFP is hoping for the grassroots army which came out last year to our Hot Air Balloon and Town Hall events to come out again this year to State House rallies and Town Hall events as we force our elected officials to see that Coloradans do not support expanded government.
I am asking for your help if we are going to be successful at stopping the Governor’s and the legislature’s efforts to eliminate TABOR. If TABOR goes down, it would give them the ammunition they need to increase spending and taxes to pay for their pet projects without the “hassle” of obtaining a vote of the people. Please support Americans for Prosperity so we can remain an active, effective force for less government in Colorado.
Last year, Coloradans defeated five measures which would have increased taxes and government spending by nearly $350 million. There is a force of people in Colorado like you who believe in free markets and responsible government.
I look forward to working with you as we continue to hold the line on TABOR and take a strong stand for our rights as citizens of Colorado.
Jim Pfaff is Colorado director for Americans for Prosperity. See www.afphq.org.