Letter to the Editor
Proposition CC and the taxpayer bill of rights
Opinion by Lindsey Rasmussen
Colorado currently leads the nation in four-day school weeks as of this past September. Over 61% of our school districts have recently started their school year on a weekly schedule of Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday. Is this because we are the trendsetting, innovative trailblazers that the nation knows us to be? No, these four-day weeks were forced upon mainly rural school districts that lack the local resources of a massive metropolitan school district due to funding cuts that have been the result of years of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights chipping away at the necessary state budget.
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, more commonly referred to as TABOR, is a ballot initiative that passed in 1992. The three main concepts of the statute include a clause that mandates both state and local governing bodies to have taxpayer approval before raising taxes, a flat tax rate, and a spending cap on revenue that cannot grow faster than the rate of inflation plus population growth. Any revenue above the TABOR limit in a given year, often called a “TABOR surplus,” must be refunded to taxpayers.
In 2005, Coloradans approved a measure called Referendum C, which allowed the state to retain any revenue above the TABOR cap until 2010. Referendum C also gave the state a new revenue cap after 2010 referred to as the “Referendum C Cap,” which grows from the prior year’s revenue cap rather than growing from the prior year’s spending by inflation plus population growth; however, it has not been enough.
Colorado has seen a massive influx of people in recent years– an estimated 700,000 people have moved into the state since 2010. The result has been resources being spread thin as the spending cap has not increased with the population growth accordingly. Schools are underfunded and rank in the bottom fifth for lowest public school spending in the nation, CDOT has over $9 billion in backlogged projects, and vital public services within the state have suffered.
In November, we had the chance to turn this state around with Proposition CC. This ballot measure would’ve allowed the state to retain the revenue that it is currently required to refund under TABOR. These funds were earmarked for education and transportation. Keep in mind, with a surplus of $500 million, which is the estimated surplus for the current fiscal year, TABOR refunds will be at highest $200 for the top tax bracket, and around $40 for the lower tax brackets.
When CO voters went to the ballot in November, we should have asked ourselves what we want the future of this state to look like. We should have come through and made this happen for the current generation of Colorado children who are lacking proper academic resources in their schools–but we did not.
So, it is time to move forward, and try again soon. Colorado’s students are the next generation of leaders for both this great state and the United States of America. It is our responsibility as voters to ensure that public academic institutions have everything they might need to succeed.