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January 04, 2017 01:07 PM UTC

Crowder/Thurlow TABOR Reform Probably Not Happening

  • by: Colorado Pols
Rep. Dan Thurlow (R), as depicted by hard-right advocacy group RMGO.

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.


9 thoughts on “Crowder/Thurlow TABOR Reform Probably Not Happening

  1. Here's a thought (perhaps getting somewhat off topic but so be it).  The article specifically mentions crumbling roads, and I would agree with the need to maintain infrastructure.  The gas tax hasn't been raised in CO in 30 years I think. The price of gas currently is pretty cheap and looks like it will remain so for at least the foreseeable future. Would require voter approval of course, but I think voters would go for it.

    I support TABOR and as a motorist who recognizes the need for maintaining infrastructure I would support a state gas tax increase earmarked of course to maintain/ rebuild roads, bridges, etc.  I would leave TABOR alone.

    1. Colorado voters have shown a willingness to raise taxes when they are told where the money is going to.  We haven't had a Governor in this state since the last Republican who has been willing to try to get anything passed through TABOR instead of trying to find ways around it. (Fees etc.)

      1. I agree.  Jacking up the cost of vehicle registrations by calling it a "fee" and not a tax subject to voter approval was disingenuous at best and an insult to the voters and rule of law. I don't dispute the roads and bridges needed fixed, but this is the kind of conduct that fosters mistrust of government.

        Be honest and tell the people the truth. They can drive down a road and hit the potholes or approach a bridge and see the weight limit sign posted. They're smarter than the "ruling political class" thinks they are.

        1. I dunno, allyn.  A couple of weeks ago you said you reacted to the lousy streets in Arvada by voting against a plan to fix the lousy streets.   Why would you do anything different with a state plan?

      2. That's because the last Republican governor who did it was vilified by the right wing of his own party, and Democrats can't do it because no Republican will ever support anything a Democrat proposes anymore.

        1. Since the most conservative right wing city in this state can pass a tax increase to fix the streets, maybe the Dems can now come out of their hole and actually try and fix things instead of making excuses.


  2. Maybe what needs to happen to get peoples' attention is to put up signs by the worst potholes: "These potholes come to you courtesy of TABOR." 

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