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Anyone concerned about the ever-increasing expansion of state government spending, or about Oklahoma’s economy, should be excited about an upcoming opportunity. It’s a proposed amendment to Oklahoma’s constitution called “TABOR”, short for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which would limit the amount by which the state can increase spending. TABOR would limit the increase of spending from one year to the next to the combined increases in the rates of population and inflation for that year. Any taxes raised in excess of this amount would be rebated back to the taxpayers who earned them.
TABOR is patterned after an amendment enacted in Colorado 12 years ago which has resulted in $3.2 billion rebated back to the taxpayers. As a result, Colorado has had the fastest growing and most robust state economy for the past ten years. Because of TABOR, while most states’ government spending was exploding during the economic expansion of the 90s, Colorado’s was increasing at a reasonable rate, thus minimizing the amount of belt-tightening needed when the recession hit. Unlike Colorado’s TABOR, Oklahoma’s proposal includes an allowance to further soften the blow of a recession in the form of a limited reserve fund to be used only in the event of an economic downturn, and which must be replenished when the economy recovers. Also, in the event that exceptional spending is needed someday for an unseen event, a provision is included in TABOR allowing for such exceptions, but only if approved by a majority of voters at the ballot box.
Such common sense financial responsibility seems tailor made for the self-reliant descendants of the old west which populate Oklahoma. It would leave more money in the taxpayers’ pockets, force state legislators to exercise spending restraint and make state spending more predictable, all of which would make Oklahoma more fertile turf for new businesses. TABOR sounds to me like a large step in the right direction for a more efficient and prosperous Oklahoma.