TABOR synonymous with partisan divide
The Colorado Supreme Court has made it clear that legislative oversights that harm government entities with unintended budget cuts can be remedied without a vote of taxpayers.
But in a regrettable show of partisanship, Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly rejected a simple fix to a legislative mistake that is costing special districts across the state millions. Instead, they fell back on a narrow interpretation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to thwart voter intent.
Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, is the only Republican who put common sense ahead of political game-playing during the recent special session convened to repair an unintended error arising from the passage of Senate Bill 267 last session.
He was the sole GOP lawmaker in the entire 100-member Colorado General Assembly looking to preserve a taxing scheme voters have already said they wanted.
As the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby explained in Wednesday’s edition, when the Legislature passed SB267, no one noticed that doing away with a 2.9 percent state sales tax on retail pot and replacing with an increased excise tax would affect the special districts, which are primarily transit authorities. As a result of the oversight, they’re losing millions in voter-approved revenue for bus service, rail and transportation for the disabled.
But instead of entertaining a legislative fix, Republican lawmakers argued that reviving the tax violated the spirit of TABOR, which requires voter approval of new taxes.
Once the tax was repealed in SB267, party leaders argued, voters in those special districts should be required to go back to the polls to restore it.
Democrats argued that TABOR never intended to produce adverse outcomes and that courts have repeatedly agreed with that assessment. Regardless, the GOP, with the exception of Thurlow, stuck to its guns that the result of the error was a tax policy change and that they wouldn’t violate constitutional TABOR provisions to fix it.
One could argue that Gov. John Hickenlooper should have read the tea leaves and saved the taxpayers the cost of convening the special session. The governor apparently lacks the cynicism to anticipate these kinds of shenanigans.
Both parties engage in political games. When they take place at the expense of common sense, it’s always the taxpayers who lose. In this case, it’s the citizens within the special districts who were willing to tax themselves at a certain level to fund certain services.
That’s why we’re appreciative when a real pro-business Republican like Thurlow tries to do right by the people affected by the issue at stake instead of looking to score political points.