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“TABOR opponents eating crow and drinking ‘backslider's wine’”
DENVER - Told you so.
That's what Republican Gov. Bill Owens is saying to members of his own party nationwide about their opposition to Referendum C.
As a result of their campaign against the ballot question, which called for a five-year time-out of the revenue limits under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, opponents to similar TABOR laws in other states are declaring the idea worthless because Colorado voted to suspend it.
And that wouldn't have happened if such out-of-state opponents to Referendum C as Grover Norquist and Dick Armey hadn't campaigned that a vote for the ballot question was a vote to gut TABOR, something Owens says isn't even close to being true.
"And now a lot of people around the country are going to say, 'TABOR's been repudiated here,' because that was their message," the governor said. "If they had gone the way I suggested, they would have an easier time passing TABOR in other states. They choose to draw a line in the sand and now they're going to have to explain that TABOR is alive and well in Colorado.
"I'm going to be on the pro-TABOR side in those states saying, 'What you were told isn't true,' ” said Owens, who has often traveled to other states over the years touting TABOR. "If C had gone down, TABOR itself would be front and center for the next two years. I think TABOR is actually protected now by Referendum C for as far as you can see. The challenge to TABOR was recessions. With recessions out of the equation, TABOR is protected."
Currently, as many as two dozen states are considering passing TABOR measures of their own. But those measures include the "fix" to TABOR that Referendum C did to Colorado's original version, which was eliminating a so-called ratchet effect that prevented the state from recovering from a recession.
In addition to asking voters for permission to retain the taxes it collects without TABOR revenue limits, which are required to be refunded to taxpayers, Referendum C raised the state's minimum budgetary level from which future growth is based.
That base was central to the state's budget problems. Under TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, the state budget is not allowed to grow more than inflation plus population growth above the previous year's budget.
But for the first time since TABOR became law, the state experienced a decline in revenues that lowered the state budget on which the following year's spending plan is based.
That's the ratchet effect because it didn't allow the state's budget to return to pre-recessionary level.
And now, to play off a quote from Mark Twain, the report of TABOR's death is already being exaggerated.
A day after last week's elections, a Pennsylvania group called The Coalition of Common Sense Priorities sent out a press release citing the Colorado vote, which included this headline: "So-Called Taxpayers Bill of Rights is Proven Failure: Only State to Enact TABOR Just Voted to Suspend it."
That Harrisburg, Pa., group is involved in a campaign against a TABOR measure that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed, ironically, on Election Day.
"The only state that actually has to live under TABOR just voted to suspend it," said Tom Wolf, a York, Pa., businessman and coalition member. "Why would Pennsylvania want to adopt policies that have failed in Colorado?"
Early in the Referendum C campaign, former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, founder of a national group that is pushing TABOR measures nationwide, accused Owens of "drinking backslider's wine" because of his support of Referendum C.
Now the governor is asking Armey exactly what that wine tastes like.
"I don't know of any other state that's pushing TABOR that hasn't fixed the ratchet," Owens said. "In state after state they have the ratchet fixed, and yet some of the same groups proposing those TABOR amendments were against (Referendum C)."