Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Lawyers on Thursday will argue their case before a federal judge about why they believe Colorado’s voter-initiated Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state Constitution is, well, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Since passed in the early ’90s, the complex law requires, among other things, that voters must approve of any tax increase. It also mandates governments to rebate money to taxpayers if the government takes in more revenue than expected. A Colorado Springs landlord and anti-tax folk hero named Douglas Bruce championed the amendment first in his home city, and then took it statewide in 1992. Since then it’s been the law of the land in Colorado, and has become a perennial political controversy.

“This is a highly historic case that is deeply important to the state of Colorado, and indeed, the rest of the country,” said Tim Hoover, spokesman for the Colorado Fiscal Institute in a news release about Thursday’s hearing.

“The principle argument of the complaint is that TABOR restructured state government in ways that violate the core principles of representative government guaranteed to every state under the U. S. Constitution,” according to, which offers background on the lawsuit.

More from the site:

The Framers of the Constitution included in Article IV Section 4 a guarantee that all the states, like the nation, would be representative democracies. That means government by elected representatives responsible to the people for making laws and handling budget matters. Under TABOR, Colorado is the only state where the authority of the legislature to make fundamental decisions about fiscal policy has been completely eliminated – crippled by TABOR requirements for a plebiscite on any revenue proposal.

More than two dozen people including lawmakers are suing Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper because he is the current governor of Colorado. Lawyers for the state have defended themselves, arguing a various number of legal and procedural points. One of them is that the plaintiffs’ claims are based on the Guarantee Clause, which states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

The state’s lawyers have argued that no authority supports the plaintiff’s reading of the Guarantee Clause, and TABOR is what the people of Colorado, who voted for it, want.

Want even more legalese on the subject? Well, head on down to the Federal Courthouse at 1823 Stout St. in Denver this Thursday at 8:30 a.m. to hear lawyers make some oral arguments in the case before a panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This year, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights might be a target not only in the legislative branch, but also in the executive and legislative branches of government.

In his State of the State address, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said of reclassifying a hospital program so its revenues wouldn’t affect TABOR limits, “If we can’t make this very reasonable change— like many already allowed under TABOR — then what choice do we have but to re-examine TABOR? Right now, no one can say with a straight face that our budget rules are working for us.”

Meanwhile, in the Statehouse, Republicans are accusing Democrats of ringing budget crunch alarm bells as an excuse to attack TABOR.

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court kicked the case back down to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.


Photo credit: efile989, Creative Commons, Flickr

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

1 Comment

  1. Will Morrison on said:

    TABOR is a piece of crap. It always was and it stays one to this day. Has it helped this state AT ALL? Has it raised our education levels? Has it made the roads any better? Has it made ANYTHING any better here? Not that i can see. All I see is a state that can’t take care of itself in a decent fashion thanks to a slum lord from the Springs who has been in jail several times for being a scum bag. THIS is who we are supposed to be listening to?

    And look at what a paradise the Springs has turned into. Between shutting off the street lights and making citizens VOLUNTEER to mow the grass in the city’s parks, I really have to wonder how many of those people would vote for the same piece of nonsense if given the chance now. SUCH a glowing recommendation for an amendment to the constitution! This piece of GARBAGE needs to go and go ASAP.

    This state deserves better than this.

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