Vail Daily editorial: Let voters decide | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily editorial: Let voters decide

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

We expected more partisan discord in the Colorado Legislature this session, and it was quick to appear.

The Colorado House of Representatives is still controlled by Democrats, while the 2014 general election gave Republicans a bare majority in the Colorado Senate. The first issue to come up was, predictably, spending, specifically, the prospect of refunding money to state taxpayers for the 2015 tax year.

Those refunds are mandated by TABOR, a 1992 amendment to the state constitution. The amendment itself is complex, but the essence is that there are caps and limits on state and local governments’ ability to tax and spend. Colorado’s recovering economy will trigger some TABOR formulas that mandate refunds of money collected in excess of the amendment’s limits unless voters allow government to keep those funds.

As you’d expect, Democrats are pushing plans that would allow the state to keep and spend an estimated $200 million. Republicans, as you’d expect, are pushing for the refunds.

The formula hasn’t been decided yet, but the refunds would be modest — simple math shows that every resident would be in line for about $40. That would help on one trip to the grocery store, but that’s about it.

There are TABOR absolutists who will demand refunds, no matter what. There are also folks in the “government is what we do together” crowd who will similarly insist that elected representatives are the best stewards of that money.

Frankly, we’re a bit turned off by both camps. With that in mind, we’d like to propose a fairly simple solution that falls in line with TABOR requirements — ask the voters.

The legislature this year should approve a voter referendum. It should ask for something simple, yet specific. Let’s split the refund amount between road maintenance and school funding. Don’t use the money to finance new debt, but to fill in current needs that state officials say they don’t have enough money to pay for. Make it a five-year proposal.

A simple ballot question would honor both the letter and spirit of TABOR, and should be fairly easy to hammer out.

On the other hand, public posturing and pandering is more fun for politicians, so our idea is probably far too simple to work.