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Put TABOR back on the ballot

Debbie Buckley

Editors note: This will be Debbie Buckleys last column for the Vail Trail, as she has just announced she is running for Eagle County commissioner. Whether she wins the seat or not, we hope to welcome her back to the Trail after the November election.Colorado voters passed TABOR (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights) in 1992 to try to curtail the out-of-control tax increases of the 1980s. In 1987, the effective income tax rate was increased by 15 percent over its previous level. During that same time the gas tax rate rose 214 percent, from 7 cents per gallon to 22 cents per gallon. In the 1980s, combined population growth and inflation was up 40 percent, but state government spending grew by an outrageous 90 percent. The Citizens initiative now known as TABOR grew from these tax increases that were considered to be too burdensome for citizens. Under TABOR, government can still grow, but elected officials must make tough decisions about where to spend money. TABOR forces the government to prioritize spending of tax dollars in the same way that working families prioritize spending their paychecks. It forces government to seek the same types of innovation and efficiency the business sector relies on to achieve a competitive edge. TABOR has kept Colorado from suffering fiscal disasters like the ones we have witnessed in California.TABOR opponents paint a picture of government not being able to pay for basic services because of TABOR restrictions. This is not true. The fact is if the government needs more money it only has to ask the taxpayers. In Eagle County we have voted in favor of more taxes on priorities that we believe in such as quality schools, trails, public safety and public transportation. The voters are smart and it is their money, so why shouldnt they be involved in big spending decisions?The idea of asking the taxpayers before spending their money seems to scare some politicians. Yes, it is a little harder to have to ask permission before spending voters money, but it is their money. Lets look at it from a different angle. Can you imagine the discussion if your significant other brought home a brand-new Hummer without discussing the expense with you? Or if you went to write a check for the kids soccer camp and found that half the money had been spent on a down payment on a boat and you were not consulted? In most relationships both parties like to be consulted about major expenses that are above and beyond the everyday expenses. TABOR forces the elected officials and the voters to work together to determine spending priorities for the community that are above and beyond everyday expenses. Some elected officials try to point to the basics that need funding in order to justify a tax increase and sweep the extras that are being funded under the rug. This is not fair to the partnership, and frankly it is insulting to think we are that stupid. For example, roads and the jail are suddenly the top spending priorities and reasons given for the recent tax increase in Eagle County. But what about the millions of dollars earmarked for the extra home rule election, affordable housing, child care, new logos, replacing cars that are still new and of course all the endless studies that are used to justify these expenses. And now we are buying the B & B gravel pit even though we are in such an emergency that property taxes were raised by 26 percent in this county.TABOR was designed to prevent these types of unbridled increases. Unfortunately, Eagle County voted to opt out of the restrictions of TABOR in 1995. Past commissioners (of both parties) have voted to keep a lid on taxes by reducing the mill levy without the restrictions of TABOR, so it has not been an issue for us until this year. In light of recent events it may be time to reconsider the vote of 1995 and put the TABOR question back on the ballot for Eagle County. Debbie Buckley is a former Avon Town councilor. E-mail comments to editor@vailtrail.com.


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