Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Grand Compromise -- Colorado 2008 Amendment 59

Douglas Bruce in his native habitatOne of the worst abominations that has been added to the Colorado Constitution by virtue of the current ease with which citizens can amend it was called TABOR, or the Tax-Payers' Bill of Rights. It says, among other things, that the state can't spend any more money each year than the previous year, plus population growth plus inflation. This is regardless of tax revenue that has been brought in (which must be refunded if in excess of this amount), any economic conditions, the fact that the cost of some things rises higher than inflation, or the fact that a down economic year may force the entire state's spending to "ratchet" down for all future years. This law was designed purposely to cripple government by one of our state's laughing stocks, Douglas Bruce.

[The other laughing stock is the City of Boulder.]

Another item added to the state constitution a few years back, in response to TABOR, was Amendment 23. It requires the state to increases its funding on P-12 education every year.

Of course, just having the limits of TABOR guaranteed that the state government would go into crisis eventually. But when you added in the bad economy a few years back and then Amendment 23, things got pretty bad. The state had to cut spending on just about anything that moved that wasn't constitutionally mandated. For example, spending for higher education was decimated. This explains why we see items like Amendment 50 which would fund community colleges with gambling taxes, and Amendment 58 which would fund college scholarships using oil and gas severance taxes. Note that every single earmarked tax proposal includes a so-called "de-Brucing" clause, which says they get to keep and spend all the money that comes in, instead of refunding it.

Members of the state legislature tried to come up with a compromise to put on the ballot but were not able to get it passed. So, instead, they created this citizen's initiative, Amendment 59.

Amendment 59 eliminates the requirement for the state to refund "excess" tax collections. Instead, the money that would have been refunded is put into the State Education Fund, which is used to pay for P-12 education. It also creates a savings account within that fund, with 10% of the fund revenues saved per year. Finally, it eliminates the Amendment 23 requirement that education spending go up every year. (In fact, education spending may actually go down, as money is put into the savings account.)

Given the state of the economy, it is likely that tax revenues will not be increasing and no new money will actually make it into the State Education Fund for a while. But eventually when the economy recovers and tax revenues increase faster than inflation, there will almost certainly be money to add. However, as more and more items get "de-Bruced", I assume this amount will go down.

The long-term benefit of this is elimination of the conflict between TABOR and Amendment 23. The short term benefit is pissing off Douglas Bruce. I'm not sure which is the more compelling reason.

Vote YES on Amendment 59.

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