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The cost of TABOR is too high

Ken Neubecker

The State of Colorado is financially strapped. The primary culprit for this situation is found in the fine print of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. TABOR was sold to the people of Colorado as giving us the ability to vote on any new tax increases, which was a good idea. What went un-noticed by most was all the extra fine print in the amendment.

Referendum C on the ballot this November will create a temporary relief valve. It will allow the state to use tax money legitimately collected for schools, roads and a whole host of neglected or under-funded services that the people of Colorado expect.

Of the many misleading statements that the anti-C folks are using is one that claims people will not get a refund. Of course you will get a refund on overpayment of federal and state taxes. The more correctly termed “give back” that you won’t get is the one that TABOR mandates from legitimate and approved taxes. The average give back from TABOR would be $98.20 per person per year. Referendum C would withhold this give back for five years, allowing the state to catch its breath financially. After five years the give back will return.

Referendum C is a temporary fix and is hardly the draconian tax burden or even tax “increase” that the anti-C folks claim. I certainly don’t mind $98.20 of my legitimate tax payment going to streets, schools and some very important state agencies, like the Water Quality Control Commission, in a time of tremendous need.

And the $98.20 is just the average. For most folks the give back would be less. Still, $98.20 is a hell of a lot cheaper than fixing the front end of your car because CDOT couldn’t afford to fill a pot hole. If Referendum C fails, don’t complain about bad streets.

So why do these anti-C folks make such shrill accusations? One reason could be an appeal to pure and unadulterated selfishness, the kind that puts individual self interest ahead of any community need no matter how desperate. “Vote no, it’s your dough!” Right. It’s my street too, and my school, and my air and water quality as well. Maybe the state should just charge a fee. The technology exists to monitor individual driveways so that the number of car trips can be counted and the appropriate bill sent every month.

Another aspect of these anti-C diatribes springs from the old saw that the “Government which governs least governs best.” The idea carried to an extreme is that no government is all perfect. If they can’t restrict government by legislation, why not bankrupt it? That seems to be what they want on both the state and federal level.

I don’t think that they have thought this out too well. Fear of a government that becomes too powerful is a legitimate fear. But these true believers would carry the idea much too far. No government may seem like paradise to some, but remember what it really is. It’s anarchy. I don’t think that’s what the anti-C folks want, but that’s what they are working towards. They should be careful what they wish for.

The other reason to bankrupt government is to eliminate regulation. That might sound good to some, but remember to be careful what you wish for. No regulation was created without a reason.

There was a time when government was very small in this country. There were no child labor laws, there were no good roads, the air, water and land was polluted and plundered purely for the massive profit of the Robber Barons, and workers had to toil 12 to 16 hours a day for 6 days a week just to pay the rent. Health insurance, vacation time and other nice “liberal” improvements that we all take for granted didn’t exist. The anti-C folks should just be honest about the whole thing and say what they really want, to go back to the way things were in 1870, or maybe 1620.

Or we could recognize reality for what it is, and it’s not defined by an ideology.

Referendum C tries to correct this ideological flaw. Colorado is near the bottom in the nation on so many things that we used to be proud of. Government can only be controlled by active participation, not by ideological fiat or threat of bankruptcy. Government also can not be run as a business. Government is not a business. It is government, something that we are all responsible for.

The state is strapped, and while I generally don’t side with Governor Owens, I do believe him when he says that the spending cuts have gone as far as they can and that we need to pass Referendum C. The idea of having to hold a bake sale or auction for improvements to I-70 is absurd. I’d just as soon let the state keep my $98.20 and use it now, rather than wait until things get really ugly.

Maybe Douglas Bruce would like to send in a fat check to “sponsor” his street. I’m sure it’s tax deductible. VT

Ken Neubecker writes about water and the environment for The Vail Trail. He can be reached for comment at eagleriver@eagleranch.com.


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