Capitol Conversation: Changing the TABOR Calculation

Mar 6, 2017

State lawmakers are leading an effort to change how the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is calculated. The goal: Let Colorado keep more of the tax money it collects.  Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland talked to John Frank with The Denver Post and Charles Ashby with The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel about how the measure could free up millions of dollars for transportation, education and health care, and why it faces an uphill battle. 

On how this bill would change the TABOR calculation:

Frank: The main difference in the current calculation and the calculation under the bill is what it measures. So right now TABOR measures the cost of government. That is, the population that needs the services, and the cost of providing those services.

Under the [proposed] bill, we would move to a personal income growth measure, now that's an economic indicator of growth -- and it does allow the state to index its spending to the overall economy.

On why it's going to be tough to pass: 

Ashby: It's always going to be in trouble politically because the Republicans are always defending TABOR and always saying that this is a cut into TABOR. TABOR is very, very popular. Politically speaking, nobody ever wants to touch it.

What's disingenuous about a lot of the stuff that you see with this TABOR stuff is TABOR always says that you can put it on the ballot and let voters vote for it. Problem is, there's no political will to put anything on the ballot. Politicians are afraid they'll be attacked for just suggesting something that might be a tax increase.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.