If Colorado voters this November approve a $1 billion income tax increase to fund schools, they will break a string of defeats for similar measures stretching back decades.
Since the early 1990s, voters have approved only two ballot measures that affected education revenues – and neither of those included a general tax increase. Over the same period, voters defeated six K-12 or higher education funding measures.
Twenty years after Coloradans approved the most restrictive tax and expenditure limitation in the country, the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has reshaped state government and sparked debate on similar proposals across the country and now is under greater assault than ever before.
Critics are using the 20th anniversary of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights to bash the voter-approved constitutional amendment as something devastating to our state. They talk as if government budgets and the economy are one in the same. Fund governments more, and we're good to go. Fund them less, and it somehow amounts to an economic crisis.
More than one Colorado political expert has said that the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has had more effect on state government than any other ballot measure in the state's history.
TABOR, as the 20-year-old voter-approved measure is known, has been felt across the state during two recessions. It's best known for restricting Colorado governments – from the state down to school districts - from increasing taxes without a vote of the people. The measure was added to the state Constitution on Election Day in 1992.
"We believe the best solution is a constitutional amendment to permanently change the spending limits at both the state and local levels, to make it easier for all levels of government to save for a rainy day, and to eliminate the weakening provision.
Schools have cut budgets for several years, and the choices of what goes next are running out.
The classroom might be the target.
"To some extent, you get what you pay for, said Glenn Gustafson, Colorado Springs School District 11 finance director. "If we want to have the lowest-funded education system in the United States, then be prepared for the consequences of that."
Officials want to keep looming cuts out of the classrooms, but can they?