DENVER — Emboldened by larger majorities in the statehouse, Colorado Democrats are eager to pork up their state government.
A pair of Democrat state lawmakers are preparing to propose a measure to eliminate residents’ “TABOR” refunds and redirect payments toward government schools. TABOR, which stands for “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” gives local residents refunded tax dollars anytime the state collects a surplus above the cap. The mechanism incentivizes lawmakers to keep budgets in check without wasting the hard-earned cash of their constituents.
In November, Jonathan Williams and Nick Stark at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held up the three-decade-old payment scheme as “the gold standard for fiscal restraint” in the National Review.
“For decades, academic researchers such as the late Milton Friedman have promoted the benefits of having an institutional constraint, like TABOR, on the growth of government,” they wrote. “Following the low-tax-plus-limited-government formula, Colorado developed into one of the most competitive business climates in the nation in the years following TABOR’s adoption.”
Colorado has remained one of the most competitive states to live and do business for decades. The state’s business climate, however, has begun to fall consistently in rank as Democrats have captured a trifecta of government power several times in the past two decades, most recently in 2019 after winning control of the Senate in the 2018 midterms.
Democrats, who have long sought TABOR’s demise, abused the rebates system last summer by attaching letters to taxpayers’ refund checks branding payments as government giveaways.
“On behalf of the State of Colorado, it is a true pleasure to send you this enclosed ‘Colorado Cashback’ refund check,” read the letter from Gov. Jared Polis that went out to taxpayers last summer. “At a time when inflation is causing increases in the cost of everyday items, we are committed to getting this money to you as quickly as possible.”
Taxpayers were misled to believe that Democrats in Denver were generously handing out $750 to $1,500 refunds out of strict fiscal responsibility, shortly before the November elections. In reality, however, Coloradans were duped out of hundreds of dollars after Democrats changed the calculation totals to a flat rate instead of matching the refund checks to taxes paid on a sliding scale. State Democrats also sent out the checks months ahead of schedule to hit bank accounts before the fall midterms.
“Jared Polis is blatantly using taxpayer dollars to help himself get re-elected,” Colorado GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown said at the time. The governor’s move led Republicans to file a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.
After manipulating the TABOR refunds for political gain, state Democrats aim to put the state’s primary measure of fiscal restraint on the chopping block.
State Rep. Cathy Kipp and State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger are reportedly drafting legislation to ask voters to give up their TABOR checks for public education. If passed, residents’ hard-earned money that should be rightfully returned will go to packing the budgets of woke indoctrination daycares that parade as schools. Colorado voters will still have to approve the bill on the November ballot if it passes in both chambers.
The bill’s adoption by Colorado voters could offer billions to government schools and the unions that run them. The arrangement is nothing short of a political payoff, in which the unions back the Democrats, and the Democrats empower them to mask children and preach racist ideologies with state-sponsored patronage courtesy of taxpayers. Last year, the state collected an extra $3 billion over the tax cap. This year’s totals are already projected at more than $2 billion, according to The Colorado Sun.
Coloradans rejected a proposal in 2019 to allow the state to keep the surplus. Residents turned down the measure by more than 7 percentage points.
Tristan Justice is the western correspondent for The Federalist. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan graduated from George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at [email protected]