The Corner

TABOR Returns!

Today the National Taxpayers Union, the Independence Institute, and various taxpayer groups in Colorado will be hosting a press conference to herald the return of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). This is good news for fiscal conservatives. Even though TABOR’s return will have little short-term effect on Colorado fiscal policy, it marks an important first step in rehabilitating the reputation of TABOR. It also brightens the prospects for the enactment of effective fiscal limits across the country.

Prior to TABOR’s enactment in 1992, previous efforts to enact effective fiscal limits met with little success However, TABOR’s low, constitutional revenue limit and provisions mandating immediate rebate of surplus revenues have rightfully earned it the reputation of being America’s most effective fiscal limit. Between 1997 and 2001 Colorado taxpayers received $3.2 billion in tax rebates courtesy of TABOR. During this time, Colorado easily led the country in both tax relief and economic growth. TABOR was seen as a model fiscal limit for other states to follow.

Early efforts by the Left to weaken or undermine TABOR fared poorly. However, in 2000, TABOR opponents changed their strategy. Instead of attacking TABOR directly, they passed Amendment 23, which required substantial annual spending increases on K-12 education. As such, when the 9/11 attacks and a severe drought caused revenues to decline by over $1 billion between 2001 and 2003, Amendment 23 forced the state to increase K-12 education spending by $450 million.

These manufactured fiscal pressures led to the passage of Referendum C in 2005, which suspended TABOR’s revenue limit for five years. This has allowed the legislature to spend, rather than rebate, a total of $3.6 billion above the TABOR limit since that time. Furthermore, the new TABOR limit will start — not at the current revenue level in 2010 — but instead where state revenues peaked in 2008. As such, Colorado residents are projected to miss out on additional $1.4 billion in tax rebates before 2012.

That having been said, TABOR is definitely worth preserving. There is a good chance that Colorado residents will receive tax rebates in fiscal 2013. More importantly, TABOR can once again serve as a model fiscal limit. The passage of Referendum C damaged TABOR’s reputation and efforts to enact similar fiscal limits elsewhere have fared poorly. Fiscal conservatives desperately need an effective, popular fiscal limit. TABOR’s return marks an important first step.

Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

Most Popular


Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More

Gender Dissenter Gets Fired

Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More
PC Culture

A Herd Has No Mind

sup { vertical-align: super; font-size: smaller; } Funny thing about my new book: I had begun shopping around the proposal for writing it long before my brief period of employment with that other magazine and the subsequent witless chimp-brained media freakout and Caffeine-Free Diet Maoist struggle ... Read More