Ref. C Costs Keep Rising

Referendum C is the net tax hike passed in Colorado in 2005. For background, see my “Referendum C Central.”

In Colorado, tax dollars collected in excess of what may be legally spent must be returned to the taxpayers, under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. But Referendum C allowed the state government to keep all of the excess dollars for several years, regardless of the amount. (That is why I call it a net tax hike.) The amount has risen dramatically, as The Pueblo Chieftain recently pointed out:

When it was pitched to voters, supporters of the measure initially said it would raise an additional $3 billion over five years – then the figure quickly was raised to $3.75 billion.

We believed the figure would be closer to $7 billion, based on the additional bounty the federal Treasury was bringing in as a result of the economic boost from the Bush tax rate cuts. But we were being too conservative.

Last week the office of Gov. Bill Ritter released its quarterly economic and revenue forecast. That document admitted that our prediction was closer to the truth.

So now we will go boldly where no one has gone before and predict that Ref C will result in an increase in state revenues of $10 billion over the five-year period.

The exact figure will not be known till after the fact, but obviously it will be billions of dollars more than Referendum C’s supporters originally predicted.

Dave Kopel writes about this for the recently created Colorado Union of Taxpayers Weblog. Kopel argues:

Although the ref C advocates dishonestly described ref C as as “temporary” “five-year” “time-out” from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the effect of ref C will be a permanent increase in state government taxing and spending levels allowed under the state Constitution. And yet, $10 billion extra dollars, over five years, plus billions and billions more in perpetuity, is not enough for the tax consumer lobby, which is gearing up to push another tax increase on the 2008 ballot.

It’s not clear exactly when or how the tax-hikers will make their move, but they obviously want to figure out a way to take even more of other people’s money by force. Apparently, to them the refrain, “just a few billion more,” never gets old.