Friday, June 28, 2019

TABOR Override in Trouble

Colorado’s controversial tax limitation initiative is on the defensive. The Democratic Party and elements of the business community and local government have been long opposed to the TABOR Amendment passed in 1992, during an era of Republican ascendance and strong anti-tax sentiment. Several restrictions included in it have been limited by courts, and now the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the entire multi-topic amendment can be overturned by one counter amendment if its opponents want to take it on.

But, before there is a full-blown TABOR challenge, the newly installed Democratic legislature, with the forbearance of the new governor, propose a permanent time out of the tax revenue give back requirements, or what’s commonly called and often approved by voters at the local level as a TABOR override. Unfortunately for proponents, they have run into considerable opposition from a newly engaged Republican establishment, with former Governor Bill Owens, former Senator Hank Brown and many current officeholders, such as Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler, opposing the time out, especially its permanent aspects. As the 2018 election highlighted, Colorado voters tend to be sympathetic to many local tax proposals, including TABOR overrides from schools, counties, municipalities and others, but are very skeptical of state tax increases. A statewide permanent time out is likely to suffer from the same voter distrust of state government. In a confusing editorial, even the Denver Post, no friend of TABOR, did not endorse a frontal assault on TABOR or a permanent time out. It pointed out how hard it will be to organize for retaining tax dollars when the state is awash in tax revenue.

Recently conducted focus groups in Adams County heard voters’ lack of understanding of the TABOR issue:

When asked about a TABOR override, while there was a lack of understanding on what exactly this ballot question would do, no one in the group supported such an effort: “Coloradans are tired of change;” we are going too far too fast;” “[Colorado] is turning into California.”

Will Governor Polis support the proposition? He tends to be risk adverse related to statewide ballot issues, and this is shaping up to be a battle.

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