July 2, 2010
Lionel Rivera didn’t receive a standing ovation after his last state-of-the-city speech the other day, but he deserves kudos for coming out in favor of a ballot measure to temporarily remove the revenue caps imposed on the city budget by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
The term-limited mayor didn’t propose this idea because it will be wildly popular. He didn’t do it because it will lay the groundwork for a future political campaign. He didn’t do it because of an over-arching concern about his legacy.
Rivera did it because he cares about Colorado Springs and he thinks it’s the best way to help the city without asking recession-plagued taxpayers to vote for a tax increase.
In a scientific survey released June 24, about 40 percent of folks around here think the city is headed in the wrong direction, a higher percentage than the poll has recorded in the past. As you would expect, Rivera mostly focused on the positive, noting that public-private partnerships and community volunteerism have played a role in shoring up the city’s flagging ability to deliver services while the city’s economy has shown flickers of life.
“Things are looking good but we can’t afford to become complacent,” Rivera said.
Well, they’re not looking that good, or we wouldn’t be discussing the temporary elimination of the TABOR revenue caps.
The mayor is right. He needs four votes from other City Council members to put the notion on the November ballot. (City attorney and council, you don’t have much time)
It’s not a tax increase. For the duration of the lifting of the revenue limits — three or five years — voters would retain the right to vote on any tax rate increase anyone might propose.
If the council goes ahead with this idea, it would be smart to pledge to voters that no new programs would be created with the resulting revenue; that the money be used only to restore services that have been lost. And believe it: So many services have been cut that it’s unlikely they all can be restored by a mere lifting of the so-called TABOR cap.
Rivera has withstood a lot of criticism, including some in this space. Because he is term-limited he won’t be mayor for much longer after the November election, so he can’t be accused of empire-building. Rivera’s motives are pure.
Whatever you might think of him, he has not agreed to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution, like someone we could name. You know, you seek immunity only when you have good reason to think you might be prosecuted for something.
The budget cuts have been too severe and we should restore some of what has been lost. Rivera’s proposal is a modest step in that direction that won’t increase anyone’s taxes.