Proposal to End TABOR Cap

As we have noted before, thanks to TABOR (combined with Gallagher and Amendment 23) our state struggles to fund many of our public investments and infrastructures, an issue other states don’t have to deal with.  We are delighted to see our Legislature continues to seek out solutions within their power to address these issues, such as the measure discussed in this article today from the Colorado Sun:  Democratic Lawmakers want to ask voters in 2019 to end TABOR cap,…

“House Speaker KC Becker is drafting a measure to put a question on the 2019 ballot that would allow the state to keep as much as $960 million in projected revenues through 2020 – money that otherwise would get refunded to taxpayers.  The proposal would split the dollars evenly between K-12 education, higher education and transportation.”

Hooray!  We need to do this!

First of all, as we look at public education in Colorado, the Budget Stabilization Factor (dollars owed to public k-12 by the state) is $672 million.  We are over $2,000 per pupil below the National Average in funding, meaning there’s a price tag of over $2 billion just to bring Colorado to the National Average.

As noted in this May 2018 article from the Associated Press, “In 2017, Colorado was the fourth lowest in spending in higher education per student, and the fourth lowest per $1,000 of state income, according to the College Board.”

And, after the November 2018 election, and two competing ballot measures to fund roads failed, the Colorado Department of Transportation said “the state has identified $7 billion in transportation projects.”

No argument from us that our state desperately needs the ability to keep these additional revenues. But we think it’s important to point out, though this proposal would bring to the state much needed funds, it should NOT be misconstrued as The Solution to fully funding any of these needs, and its questionable if you can call it sustainable.

We would call this a band-aid for the state’s funding woes, and hope if the legislature decides to refer a measure to the ballot, they are careful not to unintentionally misrepresent it as a total solution.  We hope they would openly address the strong likelihood, that there are and will be many years when revenues in Colorado do not exceed the TABOR cap. It needs to be clear, in those years, there would be no additional funds.

We say this, because far too often, when we’ve talked to community members and voters about needed funding for public education, we continue to hear people ask what about the Marijuana Money?   And as anyone who reads our articles and posts knows, the campaign to pass Amendment 64 said the dollars would fund education.  That wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the complete story.  Amendment 64 and the Marijuana Money did not solve our funding shortage for public education in Colorado.

If the Legislature moves forward with this proposed measure, they really need to make sure our voters don’t have the same misconception.

So, in closing, bravo to our legislators for working hard to seek solutions to help fix our funding woes. We look forward to hearing more details about this proposal.