TABOR News Opinion: Coloradans should get their TABOR tax refunds

If you read
<https://coloradosun.com/2019/08/22/proposition-cc-tax-hike-colorado-2019-el
ection/> Proposition CC's ballot language, you'll be hard pressed to figure
out what it's really asking. It doesn't say it's permanent, it doesn't
mention the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, and it doesn't point out that it's a
tax increase.

In fact, it deceptively begins by saying, "Without raising taxes.," even
though state government will be keeping and spending billions of dollars
that would otherwise go back to taxpayers.
Michael Fields

Frankly, the ballot language would get laughed out of the Title Board if a
citizen ever brought it. But since the legislature gets to play by different
rules, here we are. If legislators were being honest, the ballot language
would read something like: "Can state government keep your TABOR tax refunds
forever?" It's not hard to guess how an honest ballot question like that
would fare with the voters.
Nevertheless,
<https://coloradosun.com/2019/09/04/proposition-cc-tabor-colorado-state-spen
ding/> Proposition CC would simply be a permanent blank check to the state
coffers, with no guarantee that the money will even go to education and
transportation in the future. Even House Speaker KC Becker said:

One legislature can't bind future legislators, so I don't know what's going
to happen forevermore. And any change that is statutory, whether voters
approve it or not, can always be changed by the legislature because the
legislature always has the authority to change statutes.
With no sunset on this ballot issue, and no assurances on where the money
will go, it's simply far too much trust to hand over to state politicians.
We don't have to look back far to see how this has played out before. Former
State Treasurer Mark Hillman called it the "Ref C shuffle."

After Referendum C passed in 2005, higher education was promised a boost to
their funding. Instead, legislators cut higher education spending from
existing sources and "replaced" those cuts with Ref C money.

READ: <https://coloradosun.com/category/opinion/opinion-columns/>
<https://coloradosun.com/category/opinion/opinion-columns/> Colorado Sun
opinion columnists.

The result? The percentage of General Fund spending flowing to higher
education actually decreased after Ref C. No wonder former CU President Hank
Brown was one of the first to come out against Proposition CC this year.
One thing we do know is that statewide polling clearly shows that Coloradans
want our roads fixed and higher pay for teachers. Prop CC would do neither.

We can't bond for roads with TABOR tax refund money that might or might not
be there year-to-year. We also can't increase teacher pay, or hire new
teachers, because the measure explicitly precludes it.
When Ref C passed, we were told that it would help fix our roads. Then, in
2009, legislators increased our car registration fees to help fix our roads.

Then the Hospital Provider Fee fix freed up $600 million in the state budget
to help fix our roads. That's an extra $3 billion a year going into our
state budget - but yet our roads are worse than ever. We'll know that
legislators are taking this issue seriously when they pass a long-term plan
with dedicated General Fund money for roads.

As a former teacher, I'm very interested in how we spend education money in
this state. Since 1990 we've increased spending on K-12 education by 20%.
During that same time, teacher pay has dropped by 20%.

We are spending more money on education, but only 54% of education dollars
are getting to teachers and classrooms. Until our education system gets
administrative costs under control, and more money is put toward teachers,
voters are going to be reluctant to raise their taxes.
We also have to have an honest discussion about the overall growth in state
spending.
<https://coloradosun.com/2019/04/12/colorado-lawmakers-approve-state-budget/

Our state budget has gone from $19 billion to $32.5 billion in just the

last decade.

That's an average of a $1.35 billion increase each year. Colorado is also
ranked No. 2 for the growth of state spending since the recession in 2008.
Legislators have enough money; they just have to prioritize it better.

Our TABOR tax refunds are projected to be $1.3 billion over the next three
years. All of that money should be refunded to taxpayers. They need that
money more than the government does.

Voting NO on Proposition CC in November will help protect our Taxpayer's
Bill of Rights. And protecting TABOR is about increased opportunity for
Coloradans.

We can remain the No. 1 economy in the country, or we can follow states like
Illinois and Connecticut where taxes are up, opportunity is down, and people
are leaving. I believe Colorado can do better.
Michael Fields is executive director of Colorado Rising Action.