Reason Magazine’s laughable libertarian fantasy Colorado

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief at Reason magazine, a libertarian guide to life and politics, posted a comic example of media carpet-bagging yesterday when he blogged on how he’d like to move to Colorado because of the amazing job the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights has done in saving our state from the ravages of the recession.

Gillespie bases his thought-piece on an Economist article, which he interprets as providing evidence of the budget sanity and winning battle going on here against taxing and spending. He refers readers to the Independence Institute for further investigation.


He clearly knows not a single thing about the Colorado budget woes so brilliantly on display this past legislative session. The “rainy day fund” he believes saved the day for us here and which he suspects TABOR made possible by instituting “fiscal discipline” is in fact the tobacco tax fund raided when an earlier plan to raid workers compensation insurer Pinnacol was taken off the table.

The tobacco tax fund was no rainy day fund. It was a fund voted on by the citizens to pay for vital preventive health programs and services. The tobacco fund was robbed this year. It had to be robbed. And some other fund will be robbed next session because, as all of us who live in the state have come to know, the state budget created by TABOR does not work.

TABOR is a good idea, on some level, from the perspective that emphasizes the citizens’ right to direct control of government. It makes Republicans feel good and gives Reason editors something to bloviate about, clearly. But it doesn’t work — or it only really works at turning lawmakers on both sides of the aisle into workaround artists.

The Economist article that has Gillespie Colorado dreaming also mentions the Arveschoug-Bird 6 percent “cap” or “allocation strategy,” etc. Whatever you want to call it, Gillespie doesn’t know that Arveschoug-Bird was essentially denounced by its co-author as clumsy and ill-conceived and was overturned this year by a bill bravely cosponsored by Democratic state Sen. John Morse and Republican state Rep. Don Marostica.

Gillespie and his cheer-leading readers should know that Arveschoug-Bird limited discretionary General Fund revenues for almost all the programs in the state, in fact working to decrease those funds substantially. The 6 percent provision ratcheted down the General Fund each year revenues dipped and kept it down for years even as the population in the state increased and the needs for services expanded.

Gillespie says “state budget woes are almost always the result of spending problems, not revenue issues” and that may be so. We certainly do have “spending problems” in Colorado, only not necessarily the kind Gillespie is referring to.

We have the kind that sees our relatively wealthy state spending at the kind of low level on social services — schools, health care, childcare, Pre-K, public security, job training, unemployment benefits, veterans care– that places Colorado in a class with the struggling states of the old south.

That may sound like plain old bleeding-heart nonsense to Reason’s readers. But you can bet Nick Gillespie and none of the other Reason writers or editors live in Alabama or are dreaming of moving there any time soon.

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