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Tuesday, October 25, 2005


C & D Referendum Debate

The October UCCS debate over Referenda C & D on this November's ballot was an interesting, but uninformative event. The debate between John Hazelhurst and Doug Bruce turned more into an infantile slam than the information sharing meeting I'd personally hoped it would be. I learned very little about just how Refs. C & D will actually help Colorado, but this was probably due to the fact that the lack of a C & D author in the debate made it less 'official' in nature. I did learn however that C & D is not a 'Tax Increase', as Mr. Bruce has tried to sell it as, but is rather a five-year hold on his precious TABOR in order to bring a little (and as Mr. Bruce puts it - very little) extra revenue into improving the general infrastructure of the state of Colorado. The lack of my puny twenty dollar refund each year over the next five years won't bother me in the least - IF it means we might have a few better roads, a few better schools and a little money for medicaid should we need it. I understand that those who have refunds in the hundreds may just want to put it back into their own pockets, and that is fine with me, but I just don't want to hear those people talk about how bad the roads are, the schools are, etc.

I think that Colorado has experienced growth at an unprecedented rate the last fifteen years and the increased tax revenues weren't enough to keep the infrastructure expanding equal to the growth rate. In our Public Finance class, we're learning just how important it is to provide society with the basics, and although we haven't gotten into the taxation side of government sector economics, we are at least privvy to the needs of the individual, and it seems that many of those who are in need in Colorado, probably aren't receiving the benefits necessary to tide them over in rough times, and the current system obviously isn't bringing in enough revenue to allow the legislature of Colorado to do what they need to do to keep Coloradans satisfied. Mr Bruce states that these Refs. are just a ruse to get more money so they can expand the general budget since C & D don't specify EXACTLY where the extra revenue will go, and Mr. Hazelhurst, in his lack of any real political experience, says that it doesn't matter where it goes, it will help Coloradans in the long run either way. Mr. Bruce says keeping our refunds is unconstitutional since TABOR forbids the legislature from spending the revenue from excess taxation, and C & D will cost the average family of four over four thousand dollars over the next year. He brought some shaky math to the debate, mainly because the majority of Coloradans aren't part of a 'family of four' (I've been here six years, have a twelve year-old son and personally don't know any four person families!), and the math looked at statistics that bent and molded to whatever he wanted to show. I didn't like the fact that his chart showing how the general budget of Colorado had grown in dollar amounts, but weren't adjusted for growth (per capita spending) or true inflation rates. But I think it is the idea that his TABOR is the main point of attack by C & D that causes Mr. Bruce the greatest source of frustration, but, as a Political Science major here at UCCS, I think Mr. Bruce needs to remember one very important American Constitutional fact - any part of ANY constitution is open for both amendment AND repeal - this includes his amendment.

Here is a link to NBCs 5/30 report on the debate. http://www.koaa.com/news/view.asp?ID=4132

I think I would characterize C a bit differently. I'm not sure that describing it as a 5 year hold on Tabor quite captures what C is about.

It seems to me fair to say that the formula for budget limits in Tabor were intended to hold real, per capita government constant at the level when Tabor was approved. After all, the formula for the limit is increased by the percent increase in population as well as by the rate of inflation.

But, when there is a recession government revenue falls below that constant, real per capita amount. This has been called the "ratchet" effect. After the revenue falls and the economy expands, the limit increases relative to the reduced revenue, and not by the constant real per capita amount represented by government when Tabor was approved.

It seems to me that C is asking voters if they want government to have been reduced in real per capita terms because of the past recession, or if they want to allow government to return to the larger real per capita size it was at the time Tabor was approved.

I suspect arguing over taking more money or keeping more money serves to "hide" a fair description of C.
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