The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also known as the TABOR Amendment, was adopted by Colorado voters as an amendment to the state Constitution in 1992 by a 54%-to-46% majority. It limits the amount of revenue the State of Colorado can retain and spend.
The TABOR limit “base” is equal to the lesser of the prior fiscal year’s revenue limit plus Colorado inflation and population growth, or the current fiscal year’s revenue.
Referendum C, which was approved by voters in 2005, allows the state to retain and spend an amount of revenue above the TABOR limit base. This amount is limited by the Referendum C “cap”, which grows by inflation plus population growth from FY 2007-08 revenue. Surplus revenue in excess of the Referendum C cap must be refunded to Colorado taxpayers, refunded from the state’s general operating fund, known as the “General Fund.”
The TABOR Amendment also requires voter approval for tax rate increases. Fees are not addressed directly by TABOR and can be increased by the state legislature without voter approval. However, voter approval is required to increase the TABOR limit, which constrains state revenue from both taxes and fees. Thus, Gov. Polis acknowledged in his November 1, 2019 budget message to the General Assembly that two fee increases recommended in his proposed FY2021 budget would increase the amount of money exceeding the TABOR limit and thereby required to be refunded to taxpayers if Proposition CC failed.
The TABOR Amendment limits the amount of revenue the State of Colorado may retain and spend, and excess “revenue” must be given back to Colorado’s taxpaying citizens in the form of tax refunds. And yet, in the aftermath of the decisive defeat of Proposition CC in 2019, Governor Jared Polis and radical legislators are now talking seriously about a new 2020 ballot initiative to totally repeal TABOR. The Greeks called such nonsense hubris, but Coloradans call it arrogance.
What Jared Polis and radical lawmakers refuse to recognize is that this “excess revenue” belongs to Coloradans, not to government. This is money taken from taxpayers in every paycheck and every sales transaction. It is not a gift to government, and it is not the plaything of politicians to spend as they please.
TABOR is one of the best remaining tools Coloradans have to limit the growth of government in our state, and it should be protected at all costs.