Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the ongoing effort by a pair of Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, to enact a change to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that would allow the state to keep more revenue when economic times are good–by changing TABOR’s revenue cap growth index from the rate of inflation plus population to the growth of personal incomes in the state.
Senate Republican leadership on Tuesday described an effort to reform TABOR as “interesting,” though leaders say it is not representative of the majority of the caucus’ priorities.
Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City responded when asked about the proposal, which has sponsorship from two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa.
The lawmakers are proposing that the state’s spending cap under TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution — be tied to personal income rather than the current formula: inflation plus population change. The idea is that government would be allowed to grow when economic times are good…
Crowder and Thurlow have both ran afoul of conservative advocacy groups at the state capitol over stands that deviated from the hard party line. Crowder in particular angered well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity with his DOA proposal last year to exempt the state’s hospital provider fee from TABOR’s revenue limit, one of the biggest public breaks for a Republican from the pro-TABOR orthodoxy since 2005’s Referendum C backed by then-Gov. Bill Owens. Like in 2005, what we’re seeing today is TABOR forcing an arbitrary limit on revenue the state can keep–creating the bizarre conundrum of meager tax refund checks going out to citizens while basic functions of government face heavy budget cuts.
So it’s great to see this effort from two Republican lawmakers to make a small but sensible change to TABOR: one that preserves the law’s stated objectives, while not imposing a limit to revenue growth that deprives the state of the ability to carry out essential functions to serve our growing population. But unfortunately, Thurlow’s and Crowder’s good intentions are hitting a wall with the GOP leadership in the Colorado Senate:
“It’s an interesting concept,” [Senate President Kevin] Grantham said. “We have to look at what’s the end result of what this bill will do. The end result will be more money out of taxpayer’s pockets. They like to call that state revenue. When I hear that, I hear money out of taxpayer’s pockets.” [Pols emphasis]
And with that, any chance of an adult discussion of this Republican-authored proposal to help the state to carry out its basic responsibilities…evaporates.
Better luck in 2019, we guess.