|What is TABOR?
TABOR is a state tax and expenditure limit that includes the following elements: it is a constitutional amendment; it restricts revenue or expenditure growth to the sum of inflation plus population change; and it requires voter approval to override the revenue or spending limits. In Colorado, where the so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” or TABOR was adopted in 1992, public services have deteriorated significantly. For example, between 1992 and 2001, Colorado declined from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending as a share of personal income. Colorado now ranks 48th in higher education funding as a share of personal income— down from 35th in 1992. Between 1991 and 2004 — a period in which the percentage of children who are uninsured declined nationally — the proportion of low-income children who lack health insurance in Colorado doubled. Colorado now ranks last in the nation on this measure. In addition, between 1992 and 2002, Colorado declined from 23rd to 48th in the nation in access to prenatal care, a sign of funding shortages in local health clinics.
Allowing revenue or expenditures to grow with population and inflation may sound reasonable, but it falls far short of being able to fund the ongoing cost of government. In an era in which health care costs are growing far faster than inflation and populations are aging, limiting the rate of spending growth to inflation plus population growth forces annual reductions in the level of government services.
TABOR shrinks the scope of what government can accomplish and creates conditions that each year pit programs and services against each other for survival. And once such limits are embedded in a state constitution, they usually cannot be removed or modified. They undermine existing services for children, youth, and families and make any new initiatives virtually impossible to undertake.
In Colorado- the only state with a TABOR, voters decided in November 2005 to suspend their TABOR amendment for five years so that the state could begin restoring cuts in public services and avoid making even more drastic cuts. Yet organizations dedicated to shrinking government — such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Limited Government, the CATO Institute, and Americans for Prosperity Foundation, among others — are still pushing for the adoption of TABORs in other states. In 2005, TABOR proposals were introduced in about half of the states -- none passed. In 2006, TABOR legislation and ballot initiatives were pushed aggressively in at least a dozen states. In five of these states, signatures were turned in for initiatives, but the initiatives were thrown out by the courts. In three states, TABOR initiatives did make the ballot, but were soundly defeated.