TABOR lawsuit is back, stronger than ever

After suffering a major setback earlier this year, the legal team trying to repeal Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment is back and charging once again into the breach.

Better known as TABOR, the amendment limits state spending and prohibits tax increases without a vote of the people. It has been panned by many lawmakers and policy analysts, and some point to it as a reason why Colorado lags in education funding nationally. Still, supporters believe it is a venerable effort at direct democracy.

In 2011, a group of public officials filed a lawsuit against the 1992 TABOR amendment, which puts an annual cap on the state’s tax revenue, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The case is officially filed against Governor Hickenlooper, who as head of state represents the Colorado Constitution. In the intervening five years, the case’s legitimacy has been, at different turns, supported, disputed and ultimately denied.  

In 2013, two years after the case was filed, the Tenth Circuit approved it, heard it and handed down a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in 2014. But Colorado’s then-Attorney General, John Suthers, challenged that decision, arguing that the plaintiffs did not in fact qualify to be heard. The Supreme Court sided with Suthers and issued an order for the Tenth Circuit to reconsider the case in light of a recent decision, Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission, that mandated that plaintiffs in this kind of case must be composed of complete government bodies, not just individuals.

The court decided that the case’s legal team was not qualified to file a lawsuit because, though the plaintiffs were all legislators whose work had been impacted by TABOR’s restrictions, the court had decided that only whole governmental bodies had the right to sue.

That led the Tenth Circuit to the decision it made in July — that the TABOR challenge was inadequate and had to re-evaluate.

Accordingly, on Tuesday the legal team added county commissions, school boards and special district boards to its list of plaintiffs.

“We are now feeling much better about standing,” attorney David Skaggs told The Independent.

All of the listed plaintiffs are public officials, and many of the new additions are government entities that have been impacted by TABOR spending limits, mostly through reduced funding from the state.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman now has 60 days to file a motion to dismiss the case, as Suthers did. Legal team spokespeople said they cautiously predict that she will do so.

Photo Credit: Matthew Cepican, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. Best of luck. This is one of the most STUPID and short sighted things this state has ever done to itself, and it’s long past time to get rid of the stupidity of TABOR. It figures that the fabulous right wing (slum lord) idea turns out to be SO disastrous.

    This state can be SO much better, but that kind of thing takes responsibility, something the right wing preaches about but never seems to take. They seem to believe that you can do absolutely NO work, put in NO time effort, or money, and things will just magically improve. Funny, but with all the generations of examples to the opposite, they still believe this.

    Time to get rid of TABOR. It’s been a millstone around our necks long enough.

    One last thing: The job of elected representative is to tax and spend. There are other things, but this is the BIG one. Most bills that go through a legislature are spending bills, it’s the nature of the game. We have, by this foolishness of TABOR, taken that job away from them. So why are they even there? We’ve taken their purpose away, and yet we’re still making them show up for work. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  2. Cynthia Coffman’s 60 days were up 60 days ago. What’s up with this lawsuit, Eliza Carter? TABOR is the most important issue in CO. It has prevented our elected representatives from being able to represent us, from being able to take advantage of our booming economy. C’mon, do some reporting.

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