Colorado lawmakers are looking for more ways to pull the state out of its budget crunch. Lawmakers are proposing increasing fees instead of taxes in at least a dozen new bills.
For years, the state has paid for subsidized services. But, if the current proposals are approved, roughly $34 million of the budget gap would be filled by businesses and individuals.
At this point, state lawmakers can't approve any tax increases because of the taxpayer's bill of rights, or TABOR. Under the amendment, voters must approve any increase in taxes or debt for government entities. That includes state, counties, cities, public school districts, higher education, and special districts. The TABOR Amendment went into effect 11 years ago.
TABOR puts a cap on how much money the state can spend, based on a formula: last year's state budget plus inflation and the rate of state growth. If lawmakers want more, they have to put it to a vote of the people.
Douglas Bruce wrote the amendment, and he says in the last 10 years it has proven it's working. But, Rocky Scott, of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation says there are good and bad parts about TABOR. He says, for example, when the economy goes down, you will lose programs whether you want to or not. That's because, as state revenue goes down, so does tax income. Scott adds, it can take up to two years to get a tax increase on the ballot.
But, with the economy in a downturn, some say it might be time to take a second look at this incredibly popular amendment. Others say its the best thing that ever happened to Colorado. Bruce says, because the government's growth is restricted, Colorado isn't facing as bad a budget crunch as other states. Scott says, Colorado restidents will eventually pay the price for the TABOR Amendment.