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Podcast: Maine and Washington Reject TABOR

On November 4th, voters in Maine and Washington state rejected a proposal called TABOR that would have forced cuts to education, health care and other key services and, as a result, weakened the economy and quality of life in those states. Iris Lav is a senior advisor here at the Center and she’s here to talk about what this means for Maine, Washington and other states.

1. Iris, what does the recent rejection tell us about TABOR’s prospects in other states?

By rejecting TABOR, voters in Maine and Washington sent a clear message that crippling and arbitrary spending restrictions remain unpopular around the country. People want quality public services. They are not fooled by the siren song that one can have good education, public safety, health care and other services without having to pay for them.

2. Has any other state adopted TABOR recently?

Anti-government groups have made serious efforts to enact TABORs in 20 states since 2004 — and they have failed every time. It seems the more that voters learn about TABOR, the less they like it.

3. So Iris, will efforts to push TABOR in other states fizzle?

Unfortunately, anti-government groups WILL likely target other states in 2010. But, there’s little reason to think that they’ll have more success. That said, it will be especially critical to defeat any TABOR initiatives that emerge in 2010 and 2011.

4. So why is it so important to defeat TABOR initiatives in the coming years?

Well, as states emerge from the current economic and budget crisis, they’ll need the flexibility to make much-needed investments in education, health, roads and bridges, and other areas that have been starved for funding during the crisis.

If TABOR is adopted in any state in 2010 or 2011, it would prevent that state from making those investments, and leave it without the skilled workforce and solid infrastructure needed to prosper over the long term.

5. Getting back to Maine and Washington – what’s the impact of this vote in those two states?

Residents of Maine and Washington have really dodged a bullet by rejecting TABOR. The health of these states’ economies depended on their vote. Citizens thought carefully about the issues, and saw through the misleading rhetoric, and did the right thing. Now these states will be able to make rational choices about the services and investments they need to make – without the rigid straightjacket of TABOR.

6. How do we know that these states will be better off?

Colorado was the only state ever to adopt TABOR, and it suffered a serious deterioration in education, health care, and other services due to its rigid spending limits. That’s why a broad coalition of residents — including business leaders — came together to suspend it in 2005. Luckily, Maine and Washington will now be spared this fate. The bottom line is: it’s never a good time to adopt TABOR.

Thank you for your insight, Iris.