View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Colorado Budget Woes

Colorado gets a lot of credit for the TABOR Amendment, and rightly so. It's been successful at keeping spending under control, and now it's being proposed as a model for Collyfornia under the Governator. The problem is, it's part of a hamentaschen of a problem afflicting the state budgeteers. They can't raise taxes, but the Gallagher Amendment tends to reduce property taxes, and Amendment 23 forces education spending to rise by more than inflation. So education spending consumes an ever-growing portion of the budget. We've weathered the storm this time, but the next recession is going to make a lot of ex-Golden-Staters who've come here wonder why.

State Treasurer Mike Coffman is trying to adhere to the spirit of all three laws by having each give a little. The Rocky has a terrible piece of reporting on this, giving virtually no details. Naturally, the tax-raisers and teachers unions get the ink complaining, though. The State Senate Minority leader, Andrew Romanoff, wants to raise taxes. The Colorado Children's Campaign (beware anything that's "for the children") will defend Amendment 23 to the death. And the Bell Policy Center is trying to give them the intellectual ammunition to do it. This is a powerful coalition, and Coffman will have to be careful not to let them sneak in the camel's nose under the tent, as the law students like to say.

Coffman is being mentioned at Governor Owens's successor, in a race against Democrat Ken "When means Only" Salazar. Navigating through this and getting an agreement passed will go a long way towards proving he's got the mettle for the job. Colorado has been a national leader in passing this tax-restrictive legislation, and a failure of nerve here will kill the idea before it can achieve national prominence.

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