Plan to repeal TABOR refunds may go to ballot
August 4, 2008
DENVER ” Organizers of a plan that would amend the Colorado Constitution to change spending limits say they have enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.
Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff said Sunday proponents of the plan will turn in more than 120,000 signatures to the Secretary of State on Monday, the deadline for petitions. The number of verified signatures needed to get on the ballot is 76,000.
The plan, known as the “Savings Account for Education,” would ask voters to let the state keep surplus refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, to invest in the State Education Fund and create a rainy day fund, Romanoff said.
The plan also would repeal Amendment 23, which calls for annual one-percent increases in education funding until 2010. Romanoff said the spending requirement would be replaced with a savings requirement.
“We want to save money when times are good, so we don’t have to cut schools and other services when times are bad,” he said.
Romanoff said the plan fixes conflicting constitutional amendments, which has had legislators trying to keep spending under the TABOR limit of inflation and population growth, while meeting the mandatory education funding of Amendment 23.
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But Rep. Douglas Bruce, a Colorado Springs Republican who helped author the TABOR constitutional amendment in 1992, said the plan amounts to the largest tax increase in state history.
“They keep saying it’s for the children, it’s not for the children. It’s for the bureaucrats,” Bruce said. “It’s a pernicious, evil, dishonest rip-off.”
Bruce said he doubts voters will approve the change, noting that Romanoff could not get support from two-thirds of the state’s lawmakers to put the measure on the ballot during the legislative session.
Romanoff, who is term-limited and won’t return to the Legislature in 2009, has succeeded once before in changing the state’s spending limits. In 2005, voters approved the Romanoff’s Referendum C, which let the state keep TABOR tax surpluses for five years.
This time, the changes to TABOR would be permanent.
But Romanoff said voters would still have the power to approve or reject tax increases, which is another of the provisions under TABOR.
Romanoff said he has bipartisan support for the proposal.