Controversial Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer gave a boost to opponents of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights when she vetoed a similar proposal in her state Thursday, saying “unreasonable spending limits” become irrelevant and a burden. She pointed to budget wrangling and overrides in Colorado as evidence that the nearly 20-year-old Taxpayer Bill of Rights experiment here is a failure.
“An effective spending limit would eliminate the state’s ability to spend one-time or bubble revenue while allowing future legislatures and governors to manage normal revenue growth,” she wrote to Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett to explain her veto. “Spending limits that are too generous, like our current constitutional limit, ultimately become irrelevant and do not protect the state. Likewise, unreasonable spending limits will be suspended or repealed and become equally irrelevant. Unfortunately, House Bill 2707 uses a mechanism that is too restrictive. We should learn from the state of Colorado that experimented with a similar mechanism, an experiment that failed.”
Read the full letter here (pdf).
Under TABOR, Colorado state and local governments can’t raise tax rates without voter approval and can’t spend revenues collected under existing tax rates without voter approval if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth.
The Arizona law would have capped General Fund revenue at 7 percent of the total income of Arizona residents.
The legislature could have raised the revenue limit by a two-thirds majority vote on each appropriation in excess of the cap. The bill would not have forced lawmakers to submit tax-rate hikes to voters to approve, as does Colorado’s law.
Colorado has seen enormous budget shortfalls in recent years but lawmakers are reluctant to go to the polls and ask for additional tax money to pay for state services. The effect has been that cutting services is the only option on the table. Over the last two years, billions have been cut from the state budget, including hundreds of millions from education, a fact that has sent Colorado to the very lowest levels of spending on education in the nation.
Increasingly, lawmakers and analysts have argued that Colorado’s budget problems cannot be solved with approaches that only look at “one side of the equation.” Lawmakers have cut spending, they say, and now they need to think about how to raise revenue.
Additional reporting by Joe Boven.