Would Prop. 103 Let Legislature Spend However It Wants?

A couple days ago “Brian” wrote about Proposition 103, “The legislature is under no obligation to spend the money on education. Prop 103 is a law, and it is only valid until it is superseded by another law.” I heard a similar claim yesterday from Justin Everett and the hosts of Grassroots Radio on 560 am.

While I think it’s possible that the legislature could try to overwrite Prop. 103 and redirect the funds to other ends, I think that’s very unlikely.

A couple weeks ago I reviewed Prop. 103 and pointed out its language adding the tax hike to the education budget of 2011-12. So, as written, Prop. 103 definitely increases the budget for education. (The budget might have increased anyway, but probably not nearly as much.)

If the legislature tried to spend the Prop. 103 money on other ends, that would undoubtedly draw a legal challenge, though I doubt Colorado’s absurdly biased courts would welcome it. But the political heat for failing to budget in accordance with Prop. 103 would be overwhelming.

I can’t recall who suggested a more plausible alternative: the money could go to shore up the pensions of those working in government “education” (broadly defined). Prop. 103 says nothing about spending the money on actually teaching children.

It’s not like critics of Prop. 103 need to reach for strained arguments about the legislature “spending the money however it wants”; as it is written the measure is terrible.

As my dad and I wrote recently, “Prop. 103. Would Hurt Working Families, Kill Jobs.”

A new paper from the Independence Institute amplifies these concerns:

The higher tax will reduce job opportunities in Colorado. The total loss in jobs from the Prop 103 tax increase is estimated between 7,400 and 11,600. The higher tax will also reduce the tax base, partially offsetting the revenue generated by the tax. Prop. 103 will exacerbate a $1 billion structural deficit in the state budget.

This is an important argument. By further weakening the Colorado economy, Prop. 103 would reduce the amount of taxes flowing into the rest of the budget. So, while education spending would skyrocket, spending elsewhere would fall relative to where it otherwise would have been.

That Prop. 103 would harm the economy is the first major reason to oppose it; the second is that the tax hike would probably have little to no effect on the actual quality of education. (My dad and I review this point as well.) Yes, the money would go to enrich administrators and the teachers’ unions, but would it actually improve kids’ education? We seriously doubt it.

Further enriching the teachers’ unions and entrenching their power is hardly the way to improve education. Instead, we need to move toward free markets to give educators and families the freedom they need to best educate the children in their care.

1 thought on “Would Prop. 103 Let Legislature Spend However It Wants?”

  1. Comment by Justin Everet tDecember 16, 2011 at 5:47 AM


    I always appreciate your insight, and read most of your posts. Somehow missed this one.
    Sorry about the “after-the-fact” response, but just Googled my name and…To reinforce my statement on the radio, Sen. Rollie Heath admitted in a few debates, there is no guarantee of how the money would be spent. Terry Scanlon of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute admitted the same at a debate, and added “If the legislature can get around Amendment 23, a Constitutional Amendment, then they could probably get around this”. Reps. Swalm & Balmer also reinforced this notion at a debate as well after I made this statement. Anything statutory can be changed by both chambers of the legislature with a 50%+1 vote and signed by the governor. With that said, I was relieved and excited when voters killed this tax increase by almost a 2-1 margin.


    Justin Everett

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