In 1992, Colorado adopted a state constitutional amendment – dubbed the “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights” or TABOR – that limits the annual growth of Colorado’s state budget to a strict formula. Annual growth in their budget must be less than the annual growth of population plus inflation.
Conservative groups are pushing for similar limits across the country. Stateline.org reported in March, “The states considering TABOR-like amendments this year are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin.”
Yesterday, right-wing columnist George Will opined, “Tabor has been spectacularly successful.” If he means that it has successfully gutted Colorado’s ability to provide basic public services, he’d be right.
Colorado has the nation’s seventh-highest per-capita income. But according to data from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:
- Colorado ranks 47th in K-12 education funding as a share of state income.
- Colorado ranks 50th in the nation in on-time immunization rates.
- The share of low-income individuals enrolled in Medicaid is lower than in all but five other states.
- Colorado has eliminated its affordable housing loans and grants program.
- Due to underfunding, court hearings that are required by statute to occur within two days of a filing routinely take 30 days.
Colorado’s story should be a warning to all those states now considering TABOR amendments.