Another Republican Joins Growing Anti-TABOR Chorus

UPDATE: Vic Vela at Colorado Community Media sheds some light on the arcane workings of TABOR in play here:

A TABOR technicality may require the state to issue pot revenue refunds – even though voters intended for money that's collected from marijuana tax money to go towards school construction and the cost of pot industry regulations.

TABOR is generally thought of as being a statute that requires all tax hikes be approved by the voters. But the technical clause also includes an area that requires the state to issue tax refunds when state spending exceeds expectations that are included in voter information material that is sent out each election, otherwise called the "Blue Book."

That seems to be the case this year and lawmakers are trying to figure out how to deal with it.

"This is confounding," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. "TABOR told us to let the voters decide. The voters have decided and their wishes may be frustrated by something hidden in the TABOR amendment."

Doug Bruce says, "mwah!"


Rep. Cheri Gerou (R).

Rep. Cheri Gerou (R).

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, things sometimes look different from a seat on the powerful legislative Joint Budget Commission. And that includes, where the subject is a reasonable actor, Republicans:

For years Democrats have been ranting and raving about Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires voters to approve all tax hikes and keeps state spending from rising beyond a certain level.

On Tuesday, during a Joint Budget Committee briefing on the state’s quarterly revenue forecast, a Republican lawmaker joined them.

“I have to tell you, quite honestly, the more I learn about TABOR, particularly what it did with the floods in our counties, the less and less I like TABOR, and the more insidious I think it has been to state government,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee and is in her final year at the legislature…

“I’ll have an effigy burned in my front yard when I get home, but it’s the honest to goodness truth,” Gerou said. “It’s not been good.” [Pols emphasis]

The problem, as we discussed a week ago with regard to growing estimates of revenue from the taxation of marijuana in Colorado, is that the controversial 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) may soon force the state to refund "excess" revenue to avoid exceeding the measure's arbitrary cap on spending. This would come despite the need to continue backfilling years of recession-forced cuts to the state budget, and even despite two votes by the people of this state to impose a healthy tax on marijuana sales. As Stokols reports, although the marijuana tax revenue is itself not yet exceeding the limit, overall growing state revenues in addition to the marijuana revenue could push the state over the overall budget limit imposed by TABOR.

The 2013 Blue Book estimated not just the revenues that might come from the marijuana taxes but also the impact on total state fiscal year spending, which was anticipated to be $20.15 billion.

So even if tax revenues themselves come in below the projection, taxpayers could still be eligible for TABOR refunds if overall state spending exceeds the Blue Book projection — which is likely based on the new revenue forecast, showing revenues up as much as $93 million in Fiscal Year 2014-15.

As a result? A statewide vote this November could be necessary–whether to allow the state to keep the "excess" revenue needed for so many budgetary line-items, or force the state to issue wasteful $10 checks to every taxpayer.

“I don’t think there’s one voter in the state of Colorado, other than maybe Douglas Bruce, who thought we were going to have to go back to them again to be able to keep the money,” said JBC Chair Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

Doug Bruce, convicted felon tax cheat and author of TABOR, is surely one of very few people smiling about this. But kudos to outgoing Rep. Gerou for rejecting the GOP's litmus test, and making the case to her fellow Republicans that their cherished "drown government in the bathtub" law really is doing more harm than good.

For which, like she says, they'll probably burn her in effigy.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DawnPatrol says:

    TABOR needs to be put to political death.  Yesterday.

    An ass-backward, wrongheaded, destructive ecomomic noose if ever there was one.

    Good to see the last few reasonable republicans starting to come to their senses.

  2. OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

    There's a reason TABOR initiatives have been shot down time and again when pushed in other states – People look to Colorado and see how it actually works, and then the voters vote it down overwhelmingly. 

    Have all the disagreements you want on fundamental taxation and tax policy, but TABOR is a fiscal policy disaster. Anyone on the right who can't admit that has a piss poor understanding of fiscal issues and budgets. 


  3. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    What is any tiny refund to a single tax payer compared to the good that money collectively can do for all of us. If people only knew how little they get from TABOR compared to what they are giving up. 

    Unfortunately all many people hear is don't let the big bad government decide to what to do with your money. They don't hear that it's an amount that won't be nearly enough to make up for all the things we have to do without because of it. They don't think about the things only good well funded government can provide when disaster strikes. Once you vote an amendment like this in, it's almost impossible to get rid of it because, of course, nobody likes paying taxes. 

    That's why we need elected representatives whose job it is to make these decisions making them without their hands tied behind their backs. If we don't like the decision, there's always the next election. If you're a real putz you can even try for a recall.

  4. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    “I’ll have an effigy burned in my front yard when I get home, but it’s the honest to goodness truth,” Gerou said. “It’s not been good.” [Pols emphasis] – See more at:

    I hope not.  I hope this is a sign that some day in the not too distant future there will once again be a Republican party that is capable of participating in governing in a constructive way. Taking a stand like this takes real guts in her party at this time. Hats off. I still wouldn't vote for her as I oppose all GOTP majorities in all legislative bodies but hats off just the same.

  5. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Doug Bruce isn't smiling about this.  Bruce doesn't smile.   He's sneering.


  6. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Senator George Rivera said in a town hall in Pueblo tonight that he doesn't support a legislative remedy for TABOR excesses. "Let the voters decide." Yeah, right. 

    Senator Crowder was a bit more open to looking at it, but still noncommital. Neither Senator showed any understanding of how complex TABOR will be to undo. 

  7. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    Having gotten her attention… Too bad this is her last session. I suggest it might be a good idea to put a couple more folks from teapublican districts on JBC next session and maybe it'll start knocking some sense into them. They might even help sway their own constituents toward beginning to dismantle the monster that Bruce built. Does anyone know how many separate ballot questions it would take to do it?

    • hawkeye says:

      Cheri Gerou's state legislative district is centered in Evergreen and is so "teapublican" that not many will be swayed to modify even the most egregious aspects of TABOR. The much ballyhooed top 1% in our economic pecking order is indeed heavily represented in her district.

      • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

        Okay, sure, but Evergreen got walloped pretty hard last September. It's going to take tax money to fix the public areas that took damage. The wealthiest are the first to holler about lapsed infrastructure that causes them inconvenience. Now is the time to tell the greedheads, "Sorry, the state/county just can't afford to fix the (fill in the blank). We'd really like to, but, TABOR, you know?" Surely some of the rich, spoiled people who live up there will notice when it's their ox that's being gored. 

  8. Not Dame Edna says:

    I'm happy to see Rep. Gerou finally admit how insidious TABOR is, too bad she is leaving. She is no shrinking violet and has a terrible reputation for her temper but she is very smart. I guess that is the problem with Republicans, not many smart ones.

  9. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Apparently, the Republicans who are smart and honest (most of them women in Colorado), get pressured to shut up about what they know and believe about what is best for their constituents, and eventually are pushed out of office. Amy Stephens, Cheri Gerou – I beleive there were others on the Western slope.

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