By THE DAILY SENTINEL
If we asked readers to give us their honest feedback about Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution, we doubt we’d get any. Who, besides lawmakers or legislative staff, could even hazard a guess as to what issue that part of the Constitution addresses?
But if we asked readers to give us their honest feedback about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, that’s a different story. Even if you didn’t have a firm position on whether it affects the state’s ability to deliver government services, you’d at least be familiar with the general subject matter.
But that presents a challenge, too. The acronym TABOR has evolved into a knee-jerk political litmus test. Generally speaking, Democrats in the state are more likely to view it as a fiscal problem to be solved, while Republicans are more likely to see it as a protection to be preserved. Some would even say it’s the spit test of ideological purity in conservative circles.
Any citizens’ initiative that attempted to change TABOR would have to try to cut through preconceived notions about what TABOR is and isn’t. The jury pool, so to speak, is tainted once it becomes clear that TABOR is the subject of a ballot initiative.
Proponents of TABOR reform are considering several different proposals to put before voters in next year’s general election, including an outright repeal of the 1992 constitutional amendment. They had hoped the state title board would allow ballot titles for these proposals to exclude the words “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.” When the state title board added them, proponents of the measures appealed to the state Supreme Court on the premise that the “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” is nothing more than a catchphrase.
As the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported, the court ruled 5-2 with the state title board.
“In our view, this title comports with the requirement that a title should allow voters, whether or not they are familiar with the subject matter of the proposal, to determine intelligently whether to support the proposal,” Justice Richard Gabriel wrote in the majority opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Nathan Coats and Justices William Hood, Melissa Hart and Carlos Samour.
If TABOR weren’t included in the title, voters would have to digest a lot of information about a complex amendment just to conclude that, “Oh, this is about TABOR.”
Better, in our view, to be up front with the title language and for proponents to make the case clearly to voters before Election Day why they think TABOR is a detriment to adequately funding schools, roads and a plethora of other needs.