They fib about everything. In their endless campaign to get their hands deeper into Coloradans’ pockets, all the government pleaders, the non-profit advocates, the squinting analysts, and the sniffing journalists agree on their biggest enemy. The main target, the bête noir, the great white whale, public sector enemy number one is the Colorado Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the TABOR Amendment.
The taxing crew is forever trying to convince the skeptical public that TABOR, adopted by voters in 1992, has changed Colorado from a bountiful land of milk and honey into a North American colony of Somalia. This post is the first in a Tribe series that will explain why that charge is bogus and the taxers know it’s bogus.
First lets review a few of the descriptions of TABOR from the taxers.
The Denver Post is more measured than most when it says TABOR is “inefficient and ultimately hurtful to our growing state. [snip] TABOR’s powerful check on government spending in reality has been a padlock on the purse-strings. [snip] We are convinced Colorado needs more revenue to fund the quality of life we’ve all come to expect from this great state.”
The Colorado Fiscal Institute laments that TABOR saddles the state with “antiquated tax policy” that produces “painful results.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns that TABOR is a “formula for decline” that causes “essentially a permanent revenue shortage” that “slowly starves the services on which state residents rely”
And, of course, to protect the children, the National Education Association weighs in to condemn TABOR as
“a proven failure” that is “destroying public services in Colorado.”
Simple Proof They are All Dissembling:
So, are the critics right? Is Colorado withering on the vine? Does state government lack the resources to provide quality modern services? Does its budget put it in the company the bottom 10% or 5% of states? Or closer to the level of a developing nation?
Not at all, any of that. The basic budget fact is that Colorado has about as much money for its population as any other state. Less than some, more than others, and above the national average.
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (no libertarian outfit) analyzed the budgets of all 50 states, including general funds, federal funds, and other state funds. The study reports Colorado at $6,320, ranks 23rd in per capita spending, right in the pack and a little above the middle.
It’s a very interesting list, and poses questions about some of the high and low placers. But, importantly, here are a few of the states that spend less per capita than Colorado: 26. Maine–$5,811; 28. Pennsylvania–$5,746; 31. Virginia–$$5,623; 32. Ohio–$$5,609; 33. Washington–$5,598; 34. Michigan$5,364;
As it turns out, California, at $6,420 lands just three spots above our Rocky Mountain home. And if government spending more money is the key to better living, why are so many Californians coming to Colorado? The US average, incidentally, is $5,777, landing between 27 Nebraska and 28 Pennsylvania. Colorado spends 9% more than the national average on each of its residents
The takeaway from these figures is that money, like all resources is finite. We all would like more. Your kid’s baseball team holds fundraisers because it needs more. Your school PTA does too. And the Girl Scouts. Every person, family, institution, and government would like and could use more money.
But, next time of one of Colorado’s public money hungry sob sisters tells you that TABOR is tightening his/her corset, don’t give in to guilt. Don’t let them off the hook without demanding better information. Smile and ask, why are you such a poor budgeter? Why do you need 9% more than Virginia for decent schools? Why do you need 9% more than Washington for decent roads? Why do you need 8% more than Kansas to provide health and human services?
The answers should be enlightening.