Big spenders nationwide were relieved that Proposition C, the proposal to suspend Colorado’s TABOR law, passed last year by 52 percent. They have rushed to proclaim that TABOR “didn’t work” and economically suffocated Colorado. Governor Napolitano says, “Anybody who thinks TABOR is a good idea . . . should talk to Gov. Owens.”
We did. Owens himself says that TABOR has worked well in Colorado. Indeed, Colorado voters were persuaded to support Proposition C only by assuring them that TABOR would not be eliminated by its passage.
TABOR contained a “glitch,” as innovations often do. The bug is the so-called “ratchet effect.” When state revenue levels dipped during the recent recession, the TABOR limit also dropped and there was no provision for it to return to the pre-recession spending level when the economy improved. Proposition C corrected that.
Arizona state government revenue is expected to grow by up to $1 billion this year, and Governor Napolitano has proposed boosting state spending by 20 percent next year alone. In times like these, we desperately need spending limitations. When revenue falls, the higher expenditures can’t be supported, so we have deficits, accounting gimmicks, borrowing and ultimately, higher taxes and economic stagnation.
Politicians should prioritize their spending like the rest of us do, and take only those dollars from taxpayers that are truly needed. TABOR would make sure that happens.
Tom Patterson is the chairman of the Goldwater Institute board of directors and a retired emergency room physician and former state senator. A version of this commentary originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.
-Goldwater Institute: "The Time is Now: A Taxpayer Bill of Rights for Arizona"
- East Valley Tribune: "Runaway spending must be stemmed"
- Arizona Republic: "Taxpayer bill of rights paid off for Colorado"