Editorial: Help prevent a TABOR train wreck 

Tuesday, Aug. 25, Colorado Springs City Council will determine if residents will have the opportunity to vote this fall on an important initiative that will shape our city's future.

You can help determine whether residents will be allowed to vote on amending the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights — to sunset the parts of TABOR that are out of control and damaging our city, while maintaining the requirement that citizens approve all future tax increases.

Our local TABOR, enacted in 1991, has two parts. The first, mandating that all tax increases be approved by voters, gives citizens a needed check on all government spending. But the second part of TABOR contains about a half-dozen pages of complicated, mandatory formulas that have had devastating consequences:

• TABOR has cheated us out of millions of dollars of federal and state matching grants.

• It has prevented the city from creating an adequate "rainy day" fund, so our city has minimal reserves to help weather a recession.

• It has forced Colorado Springs to deal with two different TABOR formulas, one local and one statewide. For example, the city and state TABORs have conflicting definitions of what is an "enterprise," how to calculate "assessed values" and "interest," and how and when to use federal Census data. They also include radically different formulas to determine inflation rates as well as population growth. Our city budgeting process must abide by the most restrictive budget figure that either TABOR formula produces.

• It has catalyzed the proliferation of dozens of special taxing districts, fees and dedicated taxing measures, which often continue forever since it is hard to undo a new government program, even after it is no longer needed.

• Our local TABOR also has other frustrating requirements. For example, it mandates that ballot titles must be fewer than 31 words. This often causes ballot questions to be difficult to understand or, worse, misleading.

• TABOR was written for an always-growing community and economy. Due to its ratchet-down formulas, TABOR will never allow our city government, which has been wounded by the recession, to catch up with increased demand for services due to population growth.

It makes no sense for Colorado Springs to be hamstrung by a complex, 18-year-old formula that does not relate to current needs. Unless action is taken, and soon, city officials will be forced to shut down parks, lay off police officers and firefighters, reduce snow plowing and let our roads further deteriorate.

This is a preventable train wreck. That's why local citizens are joining with the Independent to ask City Council to give us an opportunity to vote this fall to keep the TABOR provisions that empower voters, while sunsetting the outdated portions.

Council initially was in support of allowing Colorado Springs to vote on this issue, but in the past few weeks, its members have received a barrage of e-mails and calls from several dozen "tea baggers" who don't want it on the ballot. As a result of this coordinated campaign, four Councilors — who agree that TABOR reforms are needed — are now publicly wavering about whether to place this measure on the ballot.

If you want the ability to vote to keep the good and popular parts of TABOR, while discarding the parts that no longer work, contact the four wavering Councilors today. Tell them — in your own words — why allowing a vote this fall is important.

One more Councilor is all that is needed to give voters the opportunity to reform our local TABOR. Your call or e-mail can make the difference. Please make these crucial contacts today. Thank you.

— John Weiss, publisher


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