Consider what TABOR budget limits are costing you

Thursday, April 14, 2016 3:55 PM

Bayfield-area residents, have you noticed the condition of Highway 160 east of the Elmore's stoplight?

Glance at the pavement as you're driving, within the limits of staying in your lane.

You'll see paving that's a maze of cracks, actual chunks coming out. And then there are the highway sections that have no paved shoulders, let alone left or right turn lanes in places that need them. Skid marks show where at least one left turn lane is badly needed.

Thank the state Taypayer Bill of Rights Amendment, known as TABOR.

Have you noticed school programs that have been cut, or that now require families to pay participation fees? An April 3 news article in the Herald said parents of kindergarteners in the Poudre Valley School District (Fort Collins) will have to pay $2,450 tuition for the half of the kindergarten school day that the state doesn't provide funding for. Apparently this is an increase from tuition they already were paying.

Our local districts provide full day kindergarten and cover the cost out of district general revenues. Who knows when they might have to follow Poudre Valley's lead? That's because state K-12 funding keeps being cut since the recession, and Colorado was toward the bottom among states for per pupil funding even before that.

Along with the Great Recession, thank TABOR.

Then there's college. Any more, some sort of post-high school education or training is pretty much required to get a job that doesn't involve asking, "Would you like fries with that?"

But with year after year of state funding cuts (since before the recession) to our public colleges and universities, tuition has gone up and up and up. Maybe you noticed. Now the price of college is debt that will shatter any naïve expectations of the American Dream.

Colorado isn't alone in this, but TABOR fairly well guarantees that state higher education funding won't increase.

Local sheep rancher and State Rep. J. Paul Brown sponsored a bill to allow ATVs on county roads. A few ATV riders behave very badly, especially in the mountains when the riders are covered up like Darth Vader. The ATVs don't have license plates, so there's no way to identify the bad apples. But charging riders to license their ATVs would bring in money in excess of what TABOR allows, and would have to be refunded. So that's not in the bill.

State legislators are in the midst of work on the 2016-17 state budget. I've heard so many changing reports of whether a TABOR refund will be required this year, or next year, or the year after, that I don't know where that stands.

TABOR's "ratchet down" effect limits how much state revenue and spending may increase from one year to the next. When state revenue tanked in the recession, the base for that calculation went way down. Revenue beyond the limit must be refunded, even when the state is cutting things like K-12 funding for lack of money.

TABOR assures that state finances will not be allowed to recover from the Great Recession. After more than 20 years, TABOR is finally working as intended.

This is likely costing taxpayers a lot more than the $20 or $40 TABOR refund they might get when refunds are required.

Any change in TABOR is up to them.