As the AP’s James Anderson reports:
A Senate committee led by Republicans who oppose tampering with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights on Monday defeated a measure to ask Colorado voters if they want to keep more tax revenue for roads, education and health care.
GOP Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa wanted to ask voters to change the way limits on state revenue are calculated under TABOR, the constitutional amendment adopted in 1992.
But the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee voted 3-2 along party lines to reject the bill.
Colorado Senate GOP leadership made no attempt to conceal their opposition to House Bill 1187, which would have changed the revenue limit under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights from being indexed against inflation and population growth to personal income growth:
Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette adds:
What was unique about House Bill 1187 was that the bill was sponsored by two Republicans: Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa. It picked up one additional Republican vote in the House when Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, supported it.
The bill had the support of two other Republicans in committee – Reps. Polly Lawrence of Littleton and Phil Covarrubias of Brighton – but they pulled their support when the bill was up for a final vote in the Democratic-controlled House.
Right-leaning advocacy groups at the capitol led by the Independence Institute reportedly put intense pressure on the few “backsliding” Republicans willing to support asking the voters for this fix–which is supposed to be consistent with the spirit of TABOR, but in practice TABOR’s so-called defenders in the legislature reliably oppose.
This outcome is not unexpected of course, and in light of the transportation deal leadership in both chambers is also struggling to get through the Republican gauntlet, it’s a reasonable question whether the timing was right for this. Either way, certainly this has been one of the most visible bipartisan pushes to relax TABOR’s chokehold on state revenue since 2005’s Referendum C. And the case made by Rep. Dan Thurlow and Sen. Larry Crowder was compelling even while it was ignored by the Senate “kill committee.”
“We have to fix the process in order to make logical decisions on the budget,” Thurlow said recently. “If they want us to prioritize, they have to take away the restrictions.”
Crowder’s rural southern Colorado district has suffered because of budget-balancing tactics that include reducing fees paid by hospitals to secure matching federal funds. Those fees are counted as state revenue under TABOR, and when they are cut to balance the budget, rural hospitals get less.
“If you look at it realistically, what are we doing here if we can’t govern?” Crowder said. “There is no holy grail in government. Period. Including TABOR.” [Pols emphasis]
A commendable effort that deserves better than it got yesterday from the Senate State Affairs committee. Here’s to this small crack in the highest wall in Colorado politics growing bigger next year.