Mar 5, 2021 | OPINION | By Teddy Weiss | Illustration by Xixi Qin
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is stupid. Let’s help fix it this April.
If you’ve ever been in a political science class at Colorado College or had the misfortune of listening to a political science major speak, there’s a chance you’ve heard of something called TABOR.
TABOR is a state-wide amendment that prohibits Colorado from raising taxes without the vote of the people. Colorado is the only state in the nation to have such a provision that prohibits our legislators from using their constitutional power to tax their constituents.
The amendment was championed by Doug Bruce, Colorado Springs love child and anti-taxer, in the 1990s, leading those who wanted to make increasing taxes as difficult as possible.
While one can be sympathetic to the overt sentiment of TABOR, most are unaware of the many provisions that are embedded in the TABOR Amendment.
Even less known is that Colorado Springs has its own TABOR requirements within its city charter. Of course, it is the only city to have its own TABOR provision in the Centennial State.
One of those provisions caps ballot measures relating to taxes at 30 words. In Colorado Springs, the first dozen or so words of any ballot question that pertains to taxes is already prescribed by TABOR language. Meaning, when we ask voters to change a law with serious consequences for our city, one can only articulate a major policy provision with 15 words or so.
It is asinine to articulate complex and intricate policy changes to voters with only 15 words.
This April, there’s a chance to make our laws more transparent and accountable.
Earlier this year, City Council voted unanimously (9-0) to include a potential repeal of the 30-word limit for this April 6municipal election called Issue 1.
Issue 1 has garnered bipartisan support throughout the community.
“Government owes its citizens an explanation,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, endorsing a “yes” vote on Issue 1. “When government asks the people to consider voting for something, voters deserve a thorough explanation of where the money will be spent. Voting yes on Issue 1 is how voters can be assured tax dollars are spent as they were promised.”
“When the City asks for your vote, you should get to know how your tax dollars will be spent before you cast your ballot,” said Democratic City Council President Richard Skorman. “The 30-word limit prevents you from getting the full story and doesn’t serve voters. Voting yes on Issue 1 gives you the transparency and accountability you deserve.”
Limiting ballot language on taxes to just 30 words is not enough space to give voters a clear and thorough explanation of what they are voting on. Removing the 30-word restriction will allow Colorado Springs voters to have the details of how our tax dollars will be spent.
Besides good governance and accountability to our voters, there’s another reason why you should vote “yes” on Issue 1: to protect the environment.
Environmentalists throughout our community are in favor of Issue 1. In order to expand our funding for our trails, open space, and parks (TOPS), we’ll need more than 30 words to explain it to voters.
Currently, under the restrictions of Doug Bruce’s anti-tax crusade, it is virtually impossible to explain, extend, and expand TOPS to voters.
Both sides of the political aisle support Issue 1, and when you get your ballot in mid-March, you should too!
Teddy Weiss serves as campaign manager for City Council President’s re-election campaign. He also serves as Director of Communication for Together for Colorado Springs, the loudest moderate-progressive election advocacy non-profit in the Pikes Peak Region.
Together for Colorado Springs supports Issue 1.