TABOR Doesn’t Work


While I’m poking around the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities site, I may as well post about their other report today, about Colorado. The story goes like this: Colorado enjoyed very strong economic growth during the 1990s. Conservatives say that success was all due to the “taxpayer’s bill of rights” that the state adopted in 1992, which curtailed the legislature’s ability to raise taxes. (TABOR was eventually repealed last year when voters realized that the state couldn’t raise enough revenue to fund things that they actually needed and wanted, like education and infrastructure.)

Anyway, CBPP finds that Colorado’s growth had nothing to do with TABOR; instead, it was due to government investments in the 1980s in education and infrastructure. This sounds a bit convenient—”Wow, liberal think tank finds that liberal policies are good for growth”—but the argument looks pretty solid. And it’s important, because a lot of other states, including Maine, Ohio, and Oklahoma, are putting TABOR-like laws on the ballot this fall. A “taxpayer bill of rights” is something right-wingers like Grover Norquist have been pushing for a long, long time. But the laws only hurt the ability of states to raise money for stuff they need, and seem to have little effect on the economy.

UPDATE: See Greg Anrig for more on the damage TABOR has done to Colorado.

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