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Briefing and Opinion
June 24, 2005

Wade Buchanan and Tom Clark
1. Benefits
2. Pitfalls
3. Economic Recovery
4. Impact on Education
5. Refunds
6. Principle or Fiscal Policy
7. National TABORs
8. Referendum C
Wade Buchanan is the director of the Bell Policy Center and a proponent of Referendum C.

Tom Clark is the Executive Vice President of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
Q: Is it really fair to ask Coloradoans to forgo a tax return in order to prop up these social services?

BUCHANAN: I don't consider it propping up. I think these are important investments for us to make. We have a very low tax rate in the state. We have one of the lowest tax rates in the country. Let's take a few years to recover so that we can reinvest in education, start building some highways that we didn't build, get back to doing some important things that you expect us to do, like protecting against West Nile virus.

CLARK: If you look at the way in which the initiative is phrased, the money is really focused on those key infrastructure pieces: roads, colleges, education, some pensions that got borrowed against and public facilities. That's not propping up social services, that's really making investments in the future for Colorado.

Q: Is TABOR more a matter of principle than fiscal policy?

CLARK: I think TABOR's always been about principle. People are suspicious of government. They want to know that their money is being spent effectively and efficiently. I have always wondered whether it was ever about money, except in the big years when the refunds were $700 or $800. It is really about the fact that you are sending a message that "I'm distrustful of you as a government. I want you to do a better job."
BUCHANAN: It is really a battle between two fundamentally different views of how society works and government's role. On the one side are the forces behind TABOR who have believed that government really needs to be a smaller and smaller part of what we do. On the other side are folks who say, going back in history the public sector has been an important vehicle for expanding opportunity, whether it's through the GI bill or the Homestead Act or the civil rights laws or public universal public education or through the interstate highway system.
Q:Why has this taken on a symbolic signifigance on the national level?

BUCHANAN: The strong anti-tax crowd at the national level and here in Colorado, see this as the gold standard, as the Holy Grail or a mechanism that will shrink government. They have found a way where they don't have to go into the state legislatures and Congress every year and argue about the relative value of individual programs. All they have to say is you get less money to fund all of next year than you did this year. TABOR's are being proposed in other states, but they are really different than the TABOR in Colorado.
CLARK: Our frustration is that the other 17 states that are looking at a TABOR-type initiative all have eliminated the part of TABOR we are trying to fix, but they don't want us to eliminate any part of TABOR. Frankly we wouldn't be feeling those effects if this one little piece of TABOR, which does not allow government to recover revenue in an upturn, hadn't been included in TABOR in the first place.
Q: What are the chances that Referendum C will pass and what will happen if it does not?

CLARK: Trying to get people to give up a portion of their dollars, which they anticipate they will get, is always a difficult thing. I think you have to ask people if they want Colorado to be a certain thing. Is this a place where you want great roads, you want great institutions of higher education? Do you want great schools for your kids? If that's what you want, are you willing to sacrifice a couple of hundred bucks over the next five years to make that happen?
BUCHANAN: Big picture, we will continue to have to try to do what is important for government to do with less and less and less money every year. At some point, things are going to start to give. One of the first things that is going to give is that we are going to lose some community colleges. I think we will continue to cut into important programs like Medicaid. We are going to have to revisit Amendment 23.