‘Yes’ on Amend. 59

There is a fundamental contradiction within the Colorado Constitution. The TABOR Amendment limits how much state revenue can grow, while Amendment 23 mandates ever-increasing state spending for public education. The result has been curtailed spending on other state needs.

This newspaper has long been among the many Colorado voices that have argued for a constitutional change to remedy that contradiction. And that’s why we support Amendment 59.

The amendment does two critical things.

First, it eliminates the Amendment 23 requirement that the state increase spending for K-12 education at the rate of inflation or higher every year, regardless of what the economy is doing or what other state needs may be.

Secondly, it eliminates the TABOR Amendment revenue restrictions on state government. But, it maintains the important TABOR provision that Coloradans must vote to approve any tax increase.

That’s exactly what Referendum C did when passed by state voters in 2005. But Referendum C was only temporary. Amendment 59 would permanently remove the TABOR revenue limits on state government, thereby “de-Brucing” Colorado government, as many municipalities and counties have done.

Without de-Brucing, the state would have to return any revenue in excess of TABOR limits to taxpayers.

But that isn’t likely to happen soon because of the economy. Projections in the Blue Book analysis of ballot measures say that state revenue is not expected to exceed the TABOR limits for at least the next five years. And that forecast was done before the current economic crisis exploded.

This newspaper has opposed the city of Grand Junction’s ballot proposal this year to permanently eliminate TABOR revenue limits for the city. We did so, not because we have fundamental objections to local or state government permanently de-Brucing, but because the city’s measure is tied to the approval of a new public safety facility in a convoluted, two-question measure. Amendment 59 is much cleaner in
its de-Brucing.

Amendment 59 also provides additional money for schools by creating a rainy day fund for K-12 education when state revenues eventually rebound enough to exceed TABOR limits. But it does not tie state lawmakers’ hands in developing a budget the way Amendment 23 currently does. And, even with the de-Brucing, Colorado will still have one of the strongest taxpayer protections of any state in the
TABOR mandate that all tax increases and new debt must be approved by voters.

We urge a “Yes” vote on Amendment 59.


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