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Matt Singer on June 19, 2006 - 11:50am
Monday, June 19, 2006
In Today's Dispatch:
The Taxpayers' Bill of Goods
With the 2006 elections quickly approaching, a small group of highly energized right-wing activists are working hard to export a failed policy from Colorado to other states around the nation. The idea is known variously as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), the Stop OverSpending Amendment (SOS), or as Tax and Spending Control (TASC). Fundamentally, though, all of the amendments boil down to a single policy idea: arbitrarily capping increases in state spending based on only two factors -- population growth and the consumer price index.
As Colorado's voters realized, the TABOR amendment is destructive -- it undermines essential health care and education programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports drastic impacts from TABOR.
In 2005, voters in Colorado passed Referendum C to temporarily repeal TABOR and allow the state to shore up its suffering social services and public infrastructure.
Below, you'll find details both about where TABOR stands in your own state, as well as information on the groups behind this movement. TABOR amendments are being advanced both through initiatives and through legislation. For more information on TABOR's disastrous history, make sure you read the primer below.
An Orchestrated Movement: The Backers of TABOR
Although TABOR campaigns across the country claim to be homegrown, the evidence suggests that nothing could be farther from the truth. In Michigan, Montana, and Nebraska, the amendment has received the name Stop OverSpending (SOS). The ballot issue committees for the organizations have striking similar names across the country -- in Montana the moniker is Montanans in Action, while in Oklahoma they are Oklahomans in Action. The Michigan amendment and Nebraska amendment are using the same website firm and design for their internet presence.
What's more, virtually all of the funding is coming from the same handful of organizations. At the forefront are Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Limited Government -- an organization closely associated with U.S. Term Limits and the Club for Growth, a PAC famous for its nastiness in fighting for a right-wing economic agenda.
A publication from the Heartland Institute a year ago highlighted these organizations, as well as such high profile far-right institutions as The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council as being the major players behind the pro-TABOR movement, notwithstanding the local puppets' claims that the idea is homegrown.
TABOR in Your State
In states across the country, the far-right is pushing TABOR Amendments. Find out below how the issue is faring in your state:
A TABOR Primer: Why the Policy is So Destructive
Why TABOR Fails in Theory
The core feature of TABORs that are being advanced around the country is the formula to limit spending increases to a rate equal to the rate of population growth plus growth in the consumer price index (inflation). This formula is meant to sound reasonable but is theoretically flawed for a number of reasons:
TABOR's Disastrous Record in Colorado
As the people of Colorado realized during their state's disastrous experimentation with TABOR, these concerns are not merely theoretical. TABOR has a very real impact on people's lives. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Once Colorado adopted the spending cap, these cuts were virtually guaranteed. In addition to being unable to cope with high rates of health insurance inflation and demographic changes, Colorado also had to deal with implications of increasingly popular strict sentencing laws driving up costs for the state's prison system.
Why TABOR Hurts the Economy
“[Business leaders] have figured out that no business would survive if it were run like the TABOR faithful say Colorado should be run -- with withering tax support for college and universities, underfunded public schools and a future of crumbling roads and bridges.”? ”” Neil Westergaard, Editor of the Denver Business Journal
While advocates of spending caps rely on economic growth as a key argument, the business community in Colorado and independent research have made it clear that spending caps are a bad idea if the goal is good-paying jobs and a friendly environment for business. In fact, while far-right ideologues claim that Colorado flourished as a result of TABOR, the evidence indicates that the opposite may be true. In the twelve years prior to TABOR's enactment, Colorado grew at the typical rate for states in the Rocky Mountain Region. In the twelve years for which data is available after TABOR's passage (1992-2004), Colorado's economy actually grew slower than the typical economy in the Rocky Mountain Region.
In fact, many Colorado business leaders and associations signed on to raise money and spread the message that TABOR desperately needed reform. Why was TABOR so bad for the economy?
Eye on the Right
TABOR backers in at least three states are under serious fire for potential legal and ethical issues related to their funding sources and their signature gathering methods. In Oklahoma, a group of businessmen and a former Republican Attorney General are challenging roughly 40% of the signatures gathered for having been gathered illegally. Meanwhile, the effort in Oregon was under fire for refusing to name donors to the effort and hiding their big money backers through complex financial tricks. In Montana, signature gatherers for TABOR and two other measures have had complaints filed against them for misleading voters about the contents of their petitions.
Three Steps Forward
Two Steps Back
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