With a barrage on non-profit liberal dollars, a squishy Governor, rigged ballot language and scare em’ then coddle em’ maneuvers, Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) was gutted last Tuesday. (Read John Berthoud’s excellent piece in HE this week here).
Colorado’s TABOR, a constitutional amendment that mandates a vote on every tax raise, ties spending to inflation, gives excess revenues back to taxpayers was considered the most stringent, successful tax caps in the country.
But, no more.
By passing Referendum C in a special election union driven vote, the state will retain all excess TABOR funds and raise the state cap on spending by $3.6 million effectively ending a plan that has given the state one of the highest growing personal incomes and state GDP nationwide.
How’d they pull it?
One might ask Republican Gov. Bill Owen, who gave cover to squishy moderates and big business across the state by endorsing the plan and giving it an aura of bipartisanship.
Step one: Get special interest on board. All of ‘em.
Everyone from the Girls Scouts of America to the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus pushed money for this referendum dropping over $4 million in the three months preceding the vote. Even state newspapers endorsed the plan. Grassroots efforts to defeat the measure were outspent and the right mixed message on the ground due to greedy competing interests.
Step Two: Skew the language so even Jesse Helms would give it a YES on face value.
Direct ballot text (emphasis added):
Without raising taxes and in order to pay for education; health care; roads; bridges; and other strategic transportation projects; and retirement plans for firefighters and police officers; shall the state be authorized to retain and spend all state revenues in excess of the constitutional limitation on state fiscal year spending for the next five fiscal years beginning with the 2005-06 fiscal year, and to retain and spend an amount of state revenues in excess of such limitation for the 2010-11 fiscal year and for each succeeding fiscal year up to the excess state revenues cap, as defined by the measure.
Who is going to vote against retirement plans for firefighters and police officers (seemingly) tax free?
Step Four: The world will end if you don’t vote this YES.
Tell voters without this bill, education will crumble, health care is shot and elderly couples and their grand babies will die in the streets. This is what Bill did.
Step Five: Make ‘em run back to Big Bill Owen for help
Now that you have them scared, promise them everything in the world with just one easy ballot. The popular reasoning was if the referendum was voted, then education and healthcare would be fully funded freeing up lots of dollars to finance everything from to state trooper raises to smoother sidewalks in front of Aunt Millie’s picket fence.
Now, Colorado voters made a good move in rejecting the other half of the ballot, Referendum D, which would cost Colorado 2.1 billion. This would have been a blank check to the state legislature for any projects deemed fit. Still, TABOR’s bite is gone and Colorado advocates like Gov. Bill Owen must be made an example by the right to stop this from happening in other states like Kansas, Ohio, Maine, Nevada, Oklahoma and Arizona where similar votes are soon to come.