Gov. Bill Ritter threw his support today behind a proposed ballot question to change two financial mandates in the Colorado Constitution – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the school-funding measure Amendment 23.Flanked by more than a dozen supportive educators and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, Ritter, a first term Democrat, called House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s proposal the best way forward to secure funding for education, while giving lawmakers more flexibility when it comes to setting budget priorities.
“Over the years, Colorado’s constitution has developed into a knot of conflicting financial mandates. This has severely restricts our budget flexibility and becomes more and more difficult for the state to pay its bills,” Ritter said.
Romanoff has only 20 days before the legislative session ends to secure support from two-thirds of lawmakers in order to put the proposal before voters this fall.
“We believe the state can do better. We believe we can save for education,” Romanoff said.
The plan calls for the elimination of Amendment 23’s requirement to annually increase K-12 funding. Instead, tax rebates under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also know as TABOR, into the state’s education fund.
Supporters of Romanoff’s proposal emphasized that “the heart” of TABOR – which requires voter approve for tax increases – would remain in place.
Democratic State Treasurer Cary Kennedy – the author of Amendment 23, which voters passed in 2000 – said Colorado currently governs with a set of financial formulas that don’t allow the state the flexibility to respond to current and future needs.
“(Romanoff’s proposal) is critical to putting our state on stronger financial footing,” Kennedy said.
Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, said Colorado would face additional ballot measures similar to Referendum C, which gave the state a five year “time out” from some of TABOR’s spending limits, for years to come if an alternative is not sought.
Immediately after the press conference, Republican lawmaker state Sen. Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield, voiced his opposition to Romanoff’s plan. Mitchell is a longtime supporter of TABOR.
In 2005, voters narrowly approved Referendum C while defeating its counterpart Referendum D.
Suthers urged members of both parties to put Romanoff’s proposal before voters.
Romanoff said he is working to find the necessary support in both chambers for his proposed reforms before the end of the session May 7.