Good news on TABOR

The Mesa County Commission on Monday repudiated its predecessor board and ordered by a 3-0 vote that the county begin, as of that day, treating sales-tax revenue as revenue subject to limitations under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

That is good news for the cause of transparent government. It’s a much-needed acknowledgement that the previous board operated in a less-than-open fashion.

The reality, however, also is that the change is unlikely to make any real difference in the day-to-day financial picture of Mesa County, and it certainly doesn’t mean that residents should expect any kind of refund.

The text of TABOR requires that revenue “collected, kept, or spent illegally since four full fiscal years before a suit is filed shall be refunded with 10 percent annual simple interest from the initial conduct.”

As Mesa County residents can testify, the last four years have been something other than flush. The ranks of county employees were trimmed, and employees went without pay increases despite the quiet relaxation of TABOR’s revenue limits.

In short, as sales-tax revenues consistently trailed historic trends, there was no overcollection of taxes because there wasn’t enough economic activity to generate the revenues that could lend themselves to overcollection.

That, of course, is beside the main point, which is that if the commission wanted to keep sales-tax money, it should have asked voter permission by deBrucing.

If Mesa County wishes to join the other 49 counties that have deBruced — the propriety of which is a subject for another day — the commission should ask voters directly. The sleight of hand employed by the previous board was justly repudiated Monday.

The sleight of hand employed by the previous board was justly repudiated Monday.


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