TABOR’s Failure Speaks Volumes

Yesterday, two versions of Colorado’s controversial Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) went before the voters in Washington state and Maine.

Where, in both states, TABOR was roundly defeated by bigger-than-expected margins, educated by Colorado’s painful experience–as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Tim Eyman, the backer of Initiative 1033, admitted Tuesday night that the effort to cap city, county and state revenue increases appeared headed for defeat, but he told The Associated Press that votes had not given politicians a mandate to raise taxes.

I-1033 was trailing by a large margin. With about 1 million votes counted early Wednesday morning, 55 percent of voters in the state opposed the initiative, which critics said would cripple governments by restricting their revenues at recession-era levels. The measure was trailing by more than 100,000 votes.

“If Olympia views this as, ‘Goody, voters are actually in favor of higher taxes,’ they are seriously misleading the electorate,” Eyman told the AP.

The measure would have limited increases in annual revenue to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Any taxes above and beyond the revenue cap would have been used to lower property taxes the following year…

Opponents point to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, passed by voters in 1992, and a cautionary tale. Critics of I-1033 say TABOR took a huge chunk of funding away from public schools and the state college system. Voters suspended TABOR for five years in 2005. [Pols emphasis]

And the Bangor Daily News reports:


Maine voters soundly rejected a pair of tax-related referendums that sought to reduce the excise tax on some vehicles and place limits on state and municipal spending.

Proponents of Question 2, the excise tax initiative, and Question 4, known as TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) II, both conceded defeat shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Based on unofficial results compiled by the Bangor Daily News, Question 2 was behind 74 percent to 26 percent and Question 4 trailed 60 percent to 40 percent as of 1 a.m. with 87 percent of statewide results tallied.

“It feels great that for a third time, Maine people have said they want to invest in schools and communities and not let out-of-state interests take that away,” said Crystal Canney from the No on 4 campaign. “We hope it’s a large enough margin for the proponents to understand three strikes and you’re out.”

…Both sides of Question 4 had used Colorado as an example of why TABOR would help or hurt. Supporters point to tremendous growth in the mountain state since it passed a version of TABOR in the early 1990s. Opponents, however, claimed that Colorado was growing long before TABOR and recently suspended portions of its bill. [Pols emphasis]

The failure of TABOR-like initiatives to take hold in other states after Colorado’s experience with the law was thoroughly explored is no accident–it’s very easy for voters in Washington and Maine to understand why Colorado ranks 49th in the nation in personal income spent on education, why Colorado faces perpetual fiscal shortfalls and constantly struggles to meet basic expectations of residents for vital services. It’s because of TABOR, and the voters of Maine and Washington state wanted no part of our ‘experiment.’

In Maine, one Colorado Republican (former Gov. Bill Owens) embarked on a self-serving tour of the state touting the “benefits” of Colorado’s TABOR–after headlining the campaign to defang it in 2005. Another Colorado Republican warned of “tremendous harm” that would be done to Maine if the measure passed. In Washington state, TABOR opponents reused video clips and talking points from the 2005 Referendum C campaign to successfully undermine Initiative 1033.

Bottom line: you can analyze yesterday’s elections all you want–whether or not New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine lost because he called his opponent fat, what the Dixiecrat gubernatorial loss in Virginia really means, or just how toxic Sarah Palin is outside of a small cadre of Glenn Beck devotees. For us, watching the same deceptive arguments in favor of TABOR we’ve heard for years go down in flames on both coasts was the biggest thing that happened last night.

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. You’d think, given the recent track record of TABOR shoot-downs, that the crowd pushing the initiatives would stop tilting at windmills.

    Per the Demotivator poster: “It may be that your purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.”  Colorado is, unfortunately, that poster child when it comes to TABOR.

  2. Gecko says:

    that the vast majority of those stupid Colorado voters WANT TABOR.

    Those morons.

  3. AristotleAristotle says:

    For those who don’t know, the aforementioned Tim Eyman is Washington’s very own Doug Bruce, albeit one who possesses some charisma and charm, and whose private business is watch selling, not slumlording. Still, he’s been Washington’s legislator-by-ballotbox for over a decade, starting with the notorious law that made car tabs a flat $30, regardless of vehicle value. I’m forgetting what other victories he’s had, but he’s had a lot of failures too, and frankly I’m surprised he even tried this one. The car tabs notwithstanding, most of his tax-oriented initiatives have lost, and a TABOR-style law is the granddaddy of that stuff.

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