Two traditions in the American experience can be traced to our origins: Mistrust of government and dislike of taxes. Both should be seen in context.
After their experiences with King George III, the Founders were careful not to entrust power in the hands of an autocratic, unaccountable executive who would put self-interest above the public trust. We are now seeing their worst nightmare playing out at the national level.
The Founders’ wariness about taxes was also qualified. They weren’t opposed to taxes per se but being taxed without having a voice in the process. Recall their rallying cry: Taxation without representation is tyranny. That means taxation with representation is not tyranny. Except in Colorado, a state that has led on fronts from women’s reproductive freedom to marijuana legalization.
Unfortunately, Colorado has also been a regressive leader, a term best defined by description: Following the lead lemming off the cliff. It’s on taxes, and it’s called euphemistically the Taxpayers Bill of Rights or TABOR. Of course, it is no such thing, just a clever political nomenclature to dupe an incredibly busy voting population.
On other progressive Colorado initiatives, other states followed. But on TABOR, zero, zilch, nada. That means 49 other states, most of which have moderate to strong conservative leanings, have opted not to take the plunge.
The consequences of TABOR have been abysmal especially in two areas with which the state is primarily charged: education and transportation. On those and others, it has been a race to the bottom as it has for the Rockies and Broncos.
Colorado, one of the most educated states thanks to immigrants like me, ranks in the cellar in pre-K to post-secondary funding. We spend $2,703 less per student than the national average. That puts us even below states like Alabama and Mississippi.
On transportation, Colorado ranks 47th in quality of rural roads and bridges. Twenty-five percent of rural roads are rated poor and 500 bridges have been deemed “structurally deficient.” Perhaps, the adage there are no atheists in foxholes should apply to crossing Colorado bridges.
In addition to the irony that no other state has opted to follow Colorado off the cliff, 80 percent of Colorado counties, the majority of which are politically conservative, 84 percent of municipalities, and 96 percent of school district have “de-Bruced,” a colloquial term named for the felonious brain behind TABOR, Douglas Bruce.
That’s what Prop CC is about: Allowing the state to de-Bruce, to allow it to keep the monies accrued through the current tax code. Prop CC would NOT allow the legislature to raise taxes, which is another legal-philosophical argument to made at another time.
TABOR is an unpleasant fact of life, one with which the legislature grapples when appropriating tax dollars.
I asked our representative, Speaker of the House KC Becker, about the urgency of Prop CC. She said that even though Colorado’s population and economy are booming, the state struggles to fix potholes and attract teachers.
“Prop CC,” she said, “will allow us in good financial times to invest in needs that will help millions of Coloradans, and it will do it without raising taxes because it only asks that the state be able to keep taxes you already pay.”
Becker pointed out that monies accrued from Prop CC would be divided equally among K-12 education; roads, bridges and transit; and higher education. It requires an annual audit to show exactly where the money is spent, a decision-making process that would be made at local levels: school boards, municipalities, and counties.
You get what you pay for. That old truism applies to Colorado. Prop CC is a reasonable partial remedy to help Colorado climb from the cellar and deserves your support.