The most important thing to know about Proposition CC and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights is that TABOR was never about the money. The money is a distraction. TABOR is about a philosophy of government.
But first, let’s get the money stuff out of the way.
In November, Colorado voters will be asked if the State of Colorado can do what 51 of Colorado’s 64 counties have already done and “debruce” the state.
This question will appear as Proposition CC on the ballot. “Debrucing” refers to Douglas Bruce, convicted tax evader and the author of TABOR. Since 1992, TABOR has placed strict limits on the amount of revenue Colorado can collect in a year.
Revenue that exceeds that amount must be refunded to taxpayers. TABOR prevents the state from benefiting from periods of economic growth. Counties and cities “debruce” in order to have sufficient funds to provide basic services.
The Colorado economy has improved, but you wouldn’t know it from the condition of our schools and roads. TABOR is why 104 of Colorado’s 178 school districts are open only four days a week. TABOR is why our highways are crumbling and our bridges are collapsing. TABOR is why the state with the highest rated economy in the nation is ranked 47th in investment in state colleges.
TABOR is why, in 2015, Colorado voters had to decide whether the state could use $66 million in marijuana tax money. That question, Proposition BB, passed with 69.39 percent of the vote. While $66 million is a lot of money, the individual refunds would have been about $8 per taxpayer. Altogether, the state has refunded over $3.5 billion since 1992. That means $3.5 billion less that was available to invest in our state.
So how much will Proposition CC cost you?
The projected TABOR surplus for 2019 is between $446 million and $575 million. Similar revenues are projected for 2020 and 2021. Those are big numbers; altogether, Colorado faces the prospect of refunding over $1 billion over the next three years. That’s a lot of schools and roads.
Those refunds look much smaller when they are split between every taxpayer in the state. The projected 2019 TABOR refund for a single person earning between $39,901 and $85,300 is $88. An individual earning $266,000 or more could expect $644. To someone who earns $266,000 a year, a $644 refund amounts to an unexpected windfall of about 2/10th of a penny for every dollar earned.
But it’s not about the money.
TABOR reflects an anti-government, anti-tax philosophy that gained popularity during the 1980s and 1990s, and is still the driving force of today’s “Tax Cuts forthe Rich” Republican Party.
Douglas Bruce didn’t just want to get rid of taxes. He wanted to get rid of government. Other people might not have shared Bruce’s hatred of government, but they did see TABOR as an opportunity. Underfunded public schools can be replaced by private, for-profit operations. Public highways can be replaced by privatized roads, typically subsidized with tax dollars that generate a profit for some company. Money that could have been used for the benefit of all could instead be used to benefit a select few.
Some people might call this anti-government thinking bold Libertarianism. Others just call it irresponsible. That lack of responsibility has created the inadequate schools, bad roads, and other financial problems that Colorado faces today. That’s why all but 13 of Colorado’s 64 counties have found it necessary to “debruce.”
TABOR was preventing these counties from providing essential services to their residents. The problem is even worse for the state. With each passing year, Colorado slips further behind other states in the quality of our roads, our schools, and our ability to meet the needs of our citizens. Eventually, we won’t be able to catch up.
Your vote can change that. Vote yes on Prop CC. Allow Coloradans to benefit from our state’s amazing economic success.
Colorado deserves it.
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