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January 14, 2015 10:47 AM UTC

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

  • by: Colorado Pols

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?


6 thoughts on “Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

    1. It isn't as simple as voters voting on increases in taxes. The spending cap has a ratchet effect, complicating the issue when the economy recedes. Of course, you know that Moderatus, but nuance is not welcome in conservative pundit circles. Too bad. I even heard a local County Commissioner (Mesa) recently say that we need to do something about the revenue caps based on what she sees in five year projections for the county budget. Our state is being harmed, and we can fix it–but only if we have honest conversations about the unexpected consequences of some policies.


    2. Why not allow government to spend revenue that comes from a recovering economy and not from a tax rate increase or new tax source?  I'm all for voters getting a say in tax rate increases or new taxes.

    3. VOTERS aren't always right. 

      The basic functions of government shouldn't be subject to the whims of the general population. And the prove that point – why has no other state adopted TABOR? Because they saw what a mess it's made here and won't touch it. 

    1. Agree but it's highly unlikely unless TABOR is declared a violation of the constitutional requirement for the states to have small "r" republican forms of government with the elected representatives making tax and spend decisions, not the voters via direct democracy. That could set off a cascade effect where other budget restrictions that got voted into our constitution are concerned but I don't see that as very likely any time soon. Also don't see a change requiring a level of consensus on a par with what is required to amend the federal constitution any time soon either. Clean up is going to remain a pipe dream for the foreseeable future and I'm afraid our state constitution will remain a quagmire, leaving our chosen representatives unable to perform what was supposed to be their job. 

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