The political class can never get enough of the private sector’s money. That is why politicians are trying to con voters into passing Proposition CC in November.
Do not give politicians a blank check. They have proven unable to manage what they already have.
Colorado is not a low-tax state where politicians scrape to fund basic services. Our state did not make Kiplinger’s top-10 list of the most tax-friendly states this year, released last week, despite having a one-of-a-kind Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution. Weakening this protection, as Proposition CC would do, will only make things worse.
By calling taxes “fees,” and because of Colorado’s booming economy, the state government finds itself awash in surplus revenue. It has so much excess income, estimates anticipate constitutionally mandated returns of nearly $400 million for fiscal year 2020 and 2021.
TABOR requires the state government to return surplus revenue that exceeds inflation plus population growth. That law, enacted by voters, wisely recognizes the rights of individuals to keep their earnings, while ensuring the government can provide essential services.
Despite substantial new revenues, politicians refuse to live within their means. The overreaching, anything-goes legislative session of 2019 spent so much on want-to-have social programs that the state’s budget must absorb up to $100 million in new expenses next year.
Meanwhile, politicians continue to underfund transportation and education in the hope taxpayers will give in by approving a tax increase or demolishing TABOR.
Even Democrats are wringing their hands over the budget situation in Colorado.
“I’m very concerned,” said Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, as quoted by reporter John Frank in a Denver publication.
She would like to come off as a voice of reason, but Zenzinger chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and helps write the budget as a member of the Joint Budget Committee. She voted for the budget and for nearly all the programs that are overstressing the government’s unprecedented revenues.
“I was concerned last year,” Zenzinger said. “And the fact that the estimates (for required spending) are coming in so much higher, just increases my concern.”
More than almost anyone else in the state, Zenzinger is responsible for the reckless spending spree that stretched the budget too thin. Now, like a drunk with a hangover, she is waking up in a mess of her creation.
The incoming Democratic chair of the Joint Budget Committee expressed similar anxiety about the Democrats’ spending binge.
“There were a lot of bills passed last (session) that have continued spending … and some of those were very large,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “I don’t think we completely all truly understand what we have obligated ourselves to.”
It sounds like a cry of “what have we done?” The answer is clear. State politicians neglected to manage money responsibly. They overspent, despite the luxury of riches.
In addition to squandering bull-market surpluses, legislators in 2019 chose to jeopardize one of the state’s largest producers of tax revenues: the oil and gas industry.
In passing Senate Bill 181, legislative Democrats authorized local governments to overregulate and even ban oil and gas operations within jurisdictions. As local jurisdictions roll out new regulations, expect energy revenues to sink and the state’s cry of poverty to grow even louder.
In this environment, the political class has the audacity to ask more from taxpayers.
Proposition CC would gut TABOR forever, giving politicians the authority to keep all revenues exceeding a commonsense formula — established entirely by voters — that keeps government spending within reasonable boundaries.