The Colorado legislature made the right move in passing Senate Bill 09-228. It is a fiscal decision that does not violate TABOR (Tax Payers Bill of Rights) and will possibly provide money to go in areas of need, such as higher education. It may not have any effect now, but is a necessary move for our state's financial situation.
Senate Bill 09-228 deals heavily with two previous tax measures, Arvescoug-Bird (1991) and TABOR (1992). Arvescoug-Bird, a statutory measure, limits spending to six percent more than that of the previous year. TABOR, a constitutional measure which was amended by the initiative process, created a cap that limited spending to no more past from growth of population and inflation. TABOR also can be interpreted as holding all past tax measures in place. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1310 diverted the money above the Arvescoug-Bird cap but below the TABOR cap to be spent on only transportation and capital construction. SB 09-228 allows this money to be spent on other aspects of the state general fund.
The legislature made the right move on this issue. The state needs to give money to other areas in need besides transportation. As higher education sees more cuts, and other cuts are made that release prisoners early and leave people out of other state institutions. Many of which need every penny possible.
However, there is a down side. With the state in financial crisis, there is likely to no be more taxes beyond the Arvescoug-Bird cap. It also does not allow future spending beyond the TABOR cap, which is unlikely to be more than 7%, leaving only an additional one percent to be dealt with.
Many argue that SB 09-228 is in violation of TABOR, which is in the state constitution. They believe this because TABOR "requires voter approval of any new tax, tax rate increase, debt increase, increase in mill levies, and any tax policy change that will result in a net revenue gain." This causes some to believe that Arvescoug-Bird can not be lifted by the legislature constitutionally.
These people fail to realize that the state has already been spending past this limit for transportation. As previously mentioned our state must appropriate money to other areas in need which the bill luckily provides for us. With a more flexible budget, we can see spending go to the areas that are in need at the time and not to those that are not in need as much. Also, one can argue that it is constitutional to lift the Arvescoug-Bird limit by stateing that TABOR never covered it anyway.
This whole situation mostly shows us the financial mess our state is in. The initiative process has given too much power to the citizens to pass fiscal policy. These measures can not be left to the masses, because almost all of them, including myself, do not know the full nature, benefits, and consequences of the constitutional amendments put in our hands. We have passed bills such as Amendment 23 in 2000, which required certain amounts of spending on K-12 education, but have limited spending through measures like TABOR.
Clearly SB 09-228 was passed by the right hands, the legislature, and will provide some of the money that is in between the Arvescoug-Bird and TABOR limit to go to other areas in need, besides the highways. It is supported by ASCSU, which I agree with. The more taxpayer money towards higher education, the better.