TABOR Pains II: Colorado Comes Undone

Jon Perr

Back in April, I described the coming 2006 ballot battle over the enshrinement of state spending limits in the Oregon constitution.  "TABOR Pains" warned of the devastating impact to Oregon's economy and public investment should Don McIntire and the team at the Taxpayer Association of Oregon succeed in passing a Colorado-style Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR) here in Oregon.

Now, the Associated Press is reporting that anti-tax poster child Colorado itself is experiencing TABOR pains.  As predicted by many, Colorado constitutional spending limits produced massive budget deficits by capping state spending at recession-era levels. The state finds itself in a $3.7 billion budget hole and with an economy that former Governor Roy Romer presciently predicted would feature a "going out of business sign."

To further enhance this experience in budgetary schadenfreude, the Colorado Republican Party is sprouting fissures over a pair of upcoming ballot measures to address the shortfall.  As the AP reports:

Gov. Bill Owens, once touted in conservative Republican circles as presidential material, teamed with Democrats last spring in drawing up the proposals that will ask voters to give up as much as $3.7 billion in tax refunds over the next five years.

This from a politician who used to tout the state constitutional amendment that limits how much Colorado governments can tax and spend the very amendment that would essentially be put on hold if the twin ballot measures pass Nov. 1.

The fight over the ballot proposals has become an issue in the bitter race to replace the term-limited Owens next year, as Republican Marc Holtzman says his likely primary opponent, Rep. Bob Beauprez, is failing to oppose Owens' ballot plan strongly enough.

Their divisive fight comes as the GOP is trying to rebound from last fall's election, when it lost a Senate seat and one U.S. House seat to Democrats. The GOP also lost control of the Legislature for the first time in more then 40 years.

Mercifully for Oregonians, Colorado's Republican catfight gives us time  to avoid repeating their TABOR disaster.  And while the likes of Grover Norquist fume, we for now can enjoy the spectacle.

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