Reader’s view: Tax-evader Douglas Bruce’s TABOR keeps voters from raising taxes, even when they thought they did

Reader’s view: Tax-evader Douglas Bruce’s TABOR keeps voters from raising taxes, even when they thought they did

Anti-tax fanatic and now-convicted tax-evader Douglas Bruce sold us a bill of goods in 1992 when voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, on the promise the we, the people, had the power to decide if and when to raise our state taxes. It’s the biggest lie in Colorado politics. And also the most fiscally damaging.

In fact, other provisions in the complex amendment block voter-approved increases from actually upping the state’s revenue. The real heart of TABOR isn’t its promise of popular votes on tax increases. It’s the cap – the part of TABOR that prohibits overall state spending from exceeding a rigid formula tied to inflation and the previous census. Revenue raised above the TABOR cap has to be given up.

More and more Coloradans are realizing that TABOR’s promise of fiscal populism is hollow, at best. We voted in 2012 to legalize marijuana and tax it for school construction. TABOR fundamentalists insisted that the Amendment 64 vote didn’t actually legalize a pot tax — even though the amendment put language in the state Constitution providing that “the General Assembly shall levy an excise tax upon marijuana” – because the amendment didn’t contain the usual, TABOR-mandated all-caps “SHALL TAXES BY INCREASED BY [fill in scary, large number here]?” language. The legislature dodged this arcane question of TABOR-ology by asking the voters in 2013 not just to re-approve the Amendment 64 tax, but also an additional retail tax. Voters said yes to both.

Now, having voted twice to tax marijuana, Coloradans have learned that TABOR still doesn’t let the state keep the marijuana tax revenue. This is due to yet another little-known TABOR provision, which requires the state to make a reverse-Price-Is-Right guesstimate of overall state revenue when a tax question is placed on the ballot. If the state’s estimate is even one dollar below the actual total, the state must return all revenue from the first year of the tax. Coloradans face a likely third vote to allow the state to keep the marijuana tax revenue we thought we already approved twice using our so-called TABOR rights. In the meantime, schools still won’t get the pot tax revenue the people approved for them. That means some kids are packed in schools that are overcrowded, underheated or falling apart.

Far from empowering voters, TABOR has created a situation where no one – not even Coloradans who have devoted years to the study of TABOR-ology – can predict exactly whether a vote to raise taxes will actually raise anyone’s taxes.

It’s a bigger fraud than any Douglas Bruce tax return.


Photo Credit: Jenny Konrad, Creative Commons, Flickr

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About the Author

Luis Toro

is a veteran Colorado lawyer and ethics rabble-rouser who’s director of Colorado Ethics Watch. His email is

1 Comment

  1. Will Morrison on said:

    TABOR was a sstupid idea, come up with by a CROOK and a charlatain. he did NOT have the state’s interests at heart, and this thiing was sold to us like some kind of great idea that would help the state save money. All it’s done is turn us closer to the third world than we should EVER be.

    The real test should have been what do the losers on Faux Noise think of it. And it was well over 10 years ago that Bill O’Reilly was on the air, telling everyone in the country just how GREAT it was. I wrote him an email at that time and told him he was a liar, that it was destroyinbg this state and that if he had HALF a clue of ANYTHING he wouldn’t be trying to bring this debacle to anyone else, anywhere.

    What we SHOULD be doing it mounting a repeal attempt to get RID of this NONSENSE and start doing the RIGHT thing for this state. Give us a chance, I suspect that more and more poeple realize just how STUPID it was to saddle ourselves with this idiocy.

    Fact of the matter is, if you want a NICE place to live, you have to pay for it, and you have to pay to take care of it. The right in this country is so short sighted that they think that saving $5.00 in taxes is great, even if the damage you’ve done to everything else as a result costs you 5 TIMES that amount later to FIX what you’ve ignored.

    And that is EXACTLY where we are now. Our roads suck, our bridges are ready to collapse (and we STILL use them every day), and there is NO way thanks to TABOR to do a damned thing about it. Things will NOT get better by NOT paying to fix things. All they will do is crumble even further.

    Douglas Bruse wbhould be in jail PERMANENTLY, just for THIS PIECE OF CRAP. et rid of it and NEVER let this FOOL near politics agaion. EVER! His greed and selfishness have cost this state PLENTY. It’s time for that to stop.

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