TABOR and fiscal policy

The Bell Policy Center is a leading resource in Colorado for balanced and accurate information about fiscal policy issues. Starting with its work in 2002-03 on the effects of TABOR in Colorado and through the passage of Referendum C in 2005, the Bell established strong credentials for clear thinking, thorough research and fair-minded advocacy on a complicated and crucial subject.

The Bell Policy Center believes expanding Opportunity requires an effective public sector working in partnership with a vibrant private sector. Government doesn’t belong everywhere, but when we need government, we need it to be effective. We need functional schools, affordable colleges, responsive law enforcement, safe highways and a health care system that cares for the most vulnerable.

That’s why we focus so much energy on improving the fiscal health of state government.

We are most proud of the role we played leading to passage of Referendum C, Colorado’s Economic Recovery Plan. Whether one cares about early childhood and K-12 education, the state’s colleges, health care for kids, transportation or other important services, Ref C was by far the most significant policy achievement in Colorado in more than a decade.

The Bell’s work was key to the success of Ref C. Our seminal report, Ten Years of TABOR (2003), documented budget cuts forced by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), the economic downturn and the interaction among other constitutional provisions. We conducted strong research, educated community leaders, identified solutions, helped build a coalition for change, and ultimately worked hard for the passage of Referendum C, which gives Colorado a five-year time-out from TABOR’s spending constraints.

“The Bell got Colorado beyond the ‘Do we have a problem?’ phase and on to a proposed solution. The Bell played a major role in a large public education effort and a broad statewide coalition. Many, many people helped with Ref C. But I believe it would not have been as good as it was, and may not even have passed at all, without the Bell’s initial research and ongoing focus and hard work.” — Wade Buchanan, Bell Policy Center president

But Ref C is only a temporary solution. Now, in 2007, the “time-out” it provides is nearly halfway over. Colorado’s fiscal stability remains the single most important issue, and it is time to focus on what happens next.

That’s why the Bell Policy Center is taking a hard look at the fiscal policy issues that will face Colorado once Ref C expires in 2010. This work is being done in collaboration with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute. Looking Forward, Colorado's fiscal prospects after Ref C was the first report on that work, published in 2007. In 2009, we updated our projections and released a new report, Looking Forward, Colorado's fiscal prospects amid a financial crisis.