With the Denver Post decrying Colorado ballot measures 60, 61, and 101 as “Armageddon,” Republican Attorney General John Suthers saying they would cause “pure anarchy,” and former Republican Governor Bill Owens calling them “damaging” and “fiscal recklessness,” I thought this was a good time to solicit the views of a supporter. So I contacted Jeff Wright. For now, I’ll publish his replies without additional commentary from me.
1. For those who don’t know who you are, briefly explain your background with TABOR and your work in promoting this year’s ballot measures (60, 61, and 101).
Wright: I was an original petitioner on TABOR in 1991 to place it on the ballot for 1992. I was one of five folks around the state who devoted much of 1992 coordinating the campaign for its passage. Since that time I have been involved with co-authoring multiple follow-on initiatives, being party to several lawsuits involved with protecting TABOR, and testifying against Bills in the legislature trying to water-down or circumvent TABOR or the initiative process.
2. Why are two of the measures “Amendments” (constitutional changes) while the third is a “Proposition” (a statutory change)?
Wright: The initiative process is the People’s management process on the other branches of government. When they fail in their fiduciary responsiblities to the People of the state and the Constitution, the FIRST power protected by the state Constitution in Article V is the initiative. The overall and highest level of management is to Amend the Constitution to correct errors, improve processes and manage the other branch’s transgressions on the People. Statutory initiative changes are made to affect those things that do not rise to level necessary for Amendments but only statutory law. That is the difference between Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101.
3. What is the Big Picture? What is the long-term purpose of these measures?
Wright: Since TABOR passed in 1992, and due to circumventions, abuse, dilutions and outright defiance by the other branches of government at aqll levels, TABOR’s effectiveness has been compromised. Total state and local spending has risen from $15.1 billion in 1992 to $47 billion in 2010; a 320% increase! State debt has tripled in just the last 10 years and debt service on that debt has doubled. Meanwhile state GDP is rising at half the rate of spending and debt. Those conditions define the term “unsustainable.” The overall effect of the three initiatives is to restore TABOR, reduce spending and debt to be in line with GDP growth and offer a chance for the People to keep some of the money going forward that elected boards, judges and government officials have been illegally taking away all these years through those circumventions.
4. Regarding Amendment 60, while I dislike property taxes, I don’t see the point of cutting property taxes for school funding and replacing that money with state funding. What’s the idea there?
Wright: The idea is to stop all of the permanent “de-TABORings” the courts have corruptly allowed to continue by political subdivisions all over the state. TABOR allowed for a four-year exemption from its requirements through a vote on a regular basis where elected officials had to repeatedly justify their need to be exempt. The permanent de-TABORINGs were violations of the Constitution and completely unfair to subsequent generations of voters who had no chance to review the need to de-TABOR. The schools will not have to seek state replacement of revenue if they re-justify the need for additional revenue and convince the voters to re-implement a local de-TABORing for four more years. The difference is now they’ll have to justify it every four years thereafter. That’s what they hate.
5. Regarding Amendment 61, which limits state and local borrowing, how can these governments complete long-term projects like road construction without borrowing?
Wright: By the same method before they moved to employ all the exotic debt instruments so much in vogue today. By the same method employed by families and business for generations: through the establishment of actual reserves and capital accrual programs, paygo and applying today’s taxes to today’s projects and not diverting the money away to new or other programs. The end cycle of excessive debt should be obvious in the fact that 72% more interest cost is accrued in a 30-year loan than a 10-year loan. It is a misnomer that road projects require borrowing to complete. For most of the history of road construction and maintenance programs they were completed through annual revenue collection and expenditure, not borrowing. Borrowing for such programs is a much more recent phenomena of the poor management of state and local government officials and the mis-allocation of priorities away from the essentials of government to the wants of politically-connected constituencies. It is also likely coming to an end as the municipal bond markets across other state begins a default cycle lasting for any years. Amendment 61 will put us ahead of the curve in dealing with the debt overhang and default problem already looming beginning in 2011 and 2012.
6. I’m confused by claims that the measures would result in “Armageddon” or “anarchy.” Except for projects involving borrowing, would not the measures still allow voters to approve tax hikes for whatever specific purposes they wanted?
Wright: That’s one of the many absurd claims made by opponents of 60, 61 and 101. The overall effect of the measures is to slow spending increases to be more in line with the growth of the private sector carrying capacity to supply revenue. Remember, after all three measures pass, state and local government starts with the $47 billion they have in 2010 but goes up more slowly from 2011 forward. There are no actual budget cuts and the legislative bodies are thus directed by the Constitution to do what they’ve been unable to do for the last 20 years: Prioritize and stop circumventing TABOR.
The only thing these measures do is slow the rate of growth from 2011 forward, while debt at the state level begins to be pared over the remaining terms of those debts and debt at the local level must once again be voter approved and must only be general obligations bonds with 10 years terms. The idea that these measures will create “Armageddon” is as ridiculous today as those same claims made in 1992 when TABOR passed. It’s simply fear tactics by opponents. It wasn’t true in ’92 and it’s not true now. Check out “Fibs by Foes” at: http://www.cotaxreforms.com/examples.php
It should be clear that the entire strategy for the opponents is to re-create the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) they used during the TABOR campaign again to try to stop the passage of these measures by the People to re-assert their proper management and control over government. The opponents hate the idea that the People have this power, even though it is the FIRST reserved power of the state Constitution. Look at their funding at: http://cotaxreforms.com/opponents.php 99+% of the opposition funding comes from sources who make their living taking taxpayer money via government. Many are from out-of-state and foreign-owned.
Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 5:57 PM
VOTE YES 60, 61 & 101
VOTE YES 60, 61 & 101
VOTE YES 60, 61 & 101
Boy, some Coloradans are either stupid, easily swayed by hype, or are getting money from this Colorado public service system. DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT THEY ARE PREACHING.
60 proposes reducing property taxes.
Colorado government is overpaid, and I see no problem reducing my property taxes. They are constantly increasing tax levies without my permission, and it is pissing me off. My house is not worth its supposed value, and I pay ridiculous amounts of property taxes. I will never sell it for what the state says its worth.
61 forbids debt by loan in any form.
61 Colorado cannot run up a deficit, what is wrong with this. Pay as you go and save for a rainy day like the rest of us. My family is pay as we go, and we are deathly close to bankruptcy.
101 state income tax rate from its current 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent. Reduce taxes and fees on vehicle purchases, registrations, leases and rentals. End all state and local charges on telecommunication services except for 911 fees. What is wrong with this. My $15 phone service costs $30 dollars due to Colorado taxes, ridiculous. $50 car registration when it costs Colorado $4 bucks to process. What are all my sales taxes for. Currently I register in New Mexico to save money on my vehicles.
Look I feel bad for public service people like cops, firefighters, teachers, but many of you are overpaid or not needed. Honestly, food on my families table comes first. If you public servants want a change, reduce how much politicians, administrators, principals and all the other wasteful spending, and not speaking out against this measure. This measure will force that issue, and if each civil job wants more money ask for it next election.
I hope this election does not end up like the fiasco of Referendum C that gave Colorado an additional 5.7 billion over five years rather than the 3.7 billion originally estimated. Colorado took $450 from a single taxpayer to 1,250 from joint filers. Colorado politicians lied and took more money than they were supposed to. Look it up if you don’t believe me. They took 1,250 bucks out of my families mouths and spent it on more wasteful projects and staff.
WE NEED A CHANGE
THIS MONEY WILL DEFINITELY KEEP MY FAMILY FED AND GIVE US A CHANCE TO AVOID BANKRUPTCY.
Anonymous October 11, 2010 at 7:39 PM
Anyone who has been in corporate or any large organization, for any amount of time knows the breed of self-interested ‘leaders’ that come along and gut staff and quality for short term gain, gets rich, then moves on.
That’s how I see 60, 61, and 101 – trading impractical tax cuts for short-term power, then passing the mess onto the next guy.
No one likes to pay taxes, but most of us do like cops, firefighters, teachers, roads, bridges, schools, etc.
US taxes are low compared to the rest of the developed world.
Sure we need to spend wisely, but this plague of caveman politics isn’t helping.
“ME NOT LIKE TAX. ALL TAX BAD. (But me still expect services)”
Isn’t personal responsibility a cornerstone that certain people always yak about? How about paying for the roads we drive on, the schools that educate our kids, and the cops and firemen that keep us safe, etc.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul will only result in a mess down the road.
Mike Spalding October 12, 2010 at 12:28 PM
In response to the October 11 anonymous comment:
This isn’t caveman politics. Slowing down the growth of the state is advocated by those intelligent enough to know that true wealth comes from growth of the private sector, not bloated government. Total state spending is now 47 Billion Dollars. How much is enough? Spending has increased every year for the last 30 years. Could we take a break? Can we survive somehow at current spending issues? How much is enough?
Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 12:04 AM
If the state and local governments need more money, they can ask us for it on the ballot and tell us what it’s for. That’s the point.
Listening to all the crying right now, you’d think the only things government does is the basic services of education, roads, police and fire protection. Were that actually true, these initiatives wouldn’t even be on the ballot. When is the last time you heard a government say “OK, if we don’t get more moeny, we’re going to have to sell the golf course”? (or the statues, or flower pots on Main street, or stadiums, or rec centers, or, or, or…) They ALWAYS threaten us with thr basic services. ALWAYS. And they ALWAYS divert money away from the basic services into other pet projects so they can say “we don’t have enough money for the basic services–give us more” and then divert THOSE funds away as well (FASTER certainly comes to mind).
It is not just our right, but our DUTY to rein this in. If any of you think they are going to rein themselves in, you’re in for a long wait. On the one hand, we have the tax and spend party (wait, it’s not a tax, it’s a fee!) and on the other hand, we have the borrow and spend party (wait, it’s not borrowing, it’s a CoP!)
We are WAY overdue for restoring TABOR.