If approved, bill would go to the 2019 ballot
(Apr. 1) – This afternoon, the House Finance committee approved Speaker KC Becker and Rep. Julie McCluskie’s bipartisan proposal to better fund public schools, higher education, and transportation. Colorado has one of the best economies in the country but the arbitrary TABOR cap severely restricts the state budget, preventing the state from keeping revenue it already generates off of growth in the economy. The cap also limits Colorado’s ability to invest in basic functions of government. As a result, Colorado’s investment in public schools, higher education, and transportation and infrastructure consistently rank at the bottom of the nation.
“The state budget should be able to grow with the economy so we can make important, investments in our future. It makes sense to ask voters whether the state can keep the money it already receives when times are good and that’s what we’re proposing,” said Speaker Becker, D-Boulder. “The TABOR cap is an antiquated fiscal policy that has severely limited Colorado’s ability to invest in basic functions of government. This is not an answer to all of Colorado’s fiscal problems, but it’s a strong first step in making sure our fiscal policy supports our way of life.”
“Leaders in business; health care; K-12 and higher education; transportation; and rural, urban and suburban Colorado talked about the value of the bipartisan measures we’re putting forward,” said Rep. McCluskie, D-Dillon. “This is not going to solve our state’s funding crisis but these are one-time use dollars that can have a real impact. It’s common-sense, it’s smart, and it’s about doing what’s right.”
Witness after witness testified in support of the bills this afternoon.
Colorado’s TABOR amendment restricts the amount of revenue all levels of government (state, local and schools) can retain, preventing the state from benefiting from economic growth and making critical investments. The vast majority of local governments and school districts have already “debruced,” meaning, they’ve received voter approval to retain all or a portion of the revenue over the TABOR cap.
All but four of the 178 school districts in Colorado have obtained voter approval to retain and spend excess revenue. Of the state’s 272 municipalities, 230 municipalities have obtained voter approval to retain and spend all or a portion of excess revenue collected. Of the state’s 64 counties, 51 counties have obtained voter approval to retain and spend all excess revenue.
This effort is supported by a broad, bipartisan coalition. Click here to see the current list of supporters.
The state has not yet followed suit, having only temporarily suspended the TABOR limit because of budget constraints through the voter-approved Referendum C in 2005.In the last 27 years since the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) was voted into Colorado’s Constitution, our state population has increased 50 percent – more than 2.3 million additional people live in our state in 2019 than in 1992. For decades, Colorado has not been able to keep up with the demands of growth because of the outdated fiscal restraints imposed on the state by TABOR.
There is a $9 billion project backlog at the Colorado Department of Transportation. Investing in our state’s infrastructure and transportation system is critical for economic development, especially in rural Colorado.
HB19-1257 refers a measure to the Fall 2019 statewide ballot asking voters to authorize the state to annually retain and spend all state revenues in excess of the TABOR cap. HB19-1258, the companion bill, is contingent on voters approving the referred measure. It splits up the revenue retained due to the measure to be spent 1⁄3 each on public schools; higher education; and roads, bridges and transit.
At a news conference when the bill was introduced in March, Speaker Becker read a statement from Gov. Jared Polis about the measures:
“Governor Polis supports allowing the state to keep the tax revenue it already collects. This common sense policy does not alter the right of citizens to vote on taxes but allows Colorado to keep pace with a growing economy. The governor is engaging bipartisan civic leaders across the state because he believes broad bipartisan support is essential to win in November.”
HB19-1257 and HB19-1258 were approved by a vote of 7-4. Both bills now go to the House Appropriations committee.