Peter Marcus at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on a fledgling proposal from two Republican lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly to change the maximum rate of allowable revenue growth under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR)–a long way of saying that two Republicans in the legislature are proposing messing with TABOR, which in itself is very big news:
Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa are heading down a road as bumpy as the crumbling state highways that have partially fallen victim to TABOR’s spending constraints. The lawmakers are proposing that the state’s spending cap formula be tied to personal income, rather than consumer inflation plus population change.
The battle ahead is long. It was once considered unthinkable for a Colorado Republican to imagine restructuring the TABOR formula so that government could grow when economic times are good.
Legislation – which would have to be referred to voters under TABOR – is planned for the upcoming session that begins on Jan. 11, with Thurlow carrying the bill in the House and Crowder sponsoring it in the Senate.
Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction makes a good point about the long-term future of TABOR if the law keeps forcing damaging budget cuts even in good economic times–too much of this and voters might be more receptive to a wholesale repeal of TABOR than a mere tweaking. Changing the limit on growth of revenue to go by personal income growth instead of the more restrained rate of inflation would give the state more to work with, especially in boom times–without risking better-known core tenets of the law like the requirement that voters approve tax increases.
Meaning Thurlow is taking a position that smart Republicans should strongly consider.
Whatever good intentions went into this proposal, it’s unlikely to pass the legislature as a referred measure. Even though it’s a relatively small change, most Republicans in the General Assembly are dogmatically opposed to any relaxation of TABOR’s strict revenue limits. On the other side, there may be Democrats willing to accept this proposal as an incremental step, but many others are as dead-set against TABOR as Republicans are committed to preserving it. Building a coalition between Republican and Democratic “TABOR moderates” without the ideologues on either side won’t be easy.
With all of that said, the fact that you have two Republicans at least indirectly acknowledging a problem with the sacred cow of TABOR is the real story here. Call it a small crack, in what has been a very high edifice up to now.