Am. 59 Would Impose New Forever Net Tax Hike

A version of this article appeared in the September 7 Colorado Daily.

Am. 59 would impose new forever net tax hike

by Ari Armstrong

Those wishing to forcibly transfer more money from those who earn it to those who want it constantly review the benefits (real or imagined) of higher tax spending. What they generally ignore are the costs.

Sure, when the government transfers money from Alice to Ben, Ben gets to spend the money on something he wants. But Alice has less to spend on her needs and those of her family, and those with whom Alice does business also suffer.

When people evaluate economic opportunities, they tend to move to where they can keep more of what they earn — to spend, invest, or give away as they see fit — and live and work as they deem best, rather than as politicians demand. We Coloradans enjoy a relatively strong economy in large part because it remains a relatively free economy. Higher taxes threaten to alienate vibrant businesses, entrepreneurs, and young workers.

Higher taxes also reduce liberty. People have a right to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Regardless of whether politicians and activists mean well in forcing some people to surrender their money to others, the practice is morally wrong.

This November, Colorado voters will decide whether to respect individual rights or to expand the tyranny of the majority when they vote on Amendment 59, a new, forever net tax hike.

Notably, Amendment 59 is brought to us by much of the same crew that brought us Referendum C in 2005. Legislative Council publishes a couple of interesting documents online about Referendum C. The Council’s projection for the net tax hike for the 2005 Blue Book was over $3.7 billion for five years. The new projection is $6.1 billion. Moreover, the measure will permanently increase state spending.

Yet, even though Colorado voters approved a net tax hike just a few years ago expected to raise over $2 billion more than supporters originally suggested, the higher-tax crowd now want billions more. And let us not forget about the tax-funded FasTracks of 2004, the expected costs of which have exploded from $4.7 billion to $7.9 billion.

Don’t be fooled by claims that the new measure is just about education. As one representative of the “yes” campaign noted in a September 1 e-mail, the measure (which advocates are calling Savings Accounts for Education) would “relieve pressure on higher education, health care, transportation and other core services.” In other words, because the new taxes go to education, the legislature can transfer other funds from education to whatever it wants.

Also beware of claims that the measure “does not increase tax rates.” The way that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights works is that the state must refund taxes that are collected over the limit. So, while Amendment 59 would not impact the rates on taxes collected, it would impose a massive net tax hike by wiping out the refunds.

At this point, Colorado taxpayers might reasonably ask how much is enough. Is there ever a point at which taxes are too high? The simple fact is that there will always be those who cannot afford to buy everything they want with the money they earn or solicit from voluntary contributions, and who turn to politicians to get the rest.

The Colorado tax budget could double, triple, or expand ten fold, and still the taxers would cry that more still is needed.

Ari Armstrong is a guest writer for the Independence Institute and the editor of

Update: As an article in today’s Rocky Mountain News points out (though I didn’t have space to include the points in the op-ed), Amendment 59 would also phase out Amendment 23, which automatically increases K-12 spending every year, and set up a rainy-day fund, yet those reforms are possible without the net tax hike. Andrew Romanoff and his Democratic pals are essentially threatening Colorado voters: give us more tax money, or we’ll refuse to fix existing problems.

Berny Morson, author the newspaper article, also reports, “Exactly how much money is involved is by no means clear. The legislative staff’s five-year financial projection shows no excess revenue that would be refunded to taxpayers, Romanoff said. But opponents say the amount could be substantial when the economy again hits good times.” Colorado voters should remember that the measure wipes out the TABOR refund forever.