NOREEN: Local tax measures dodging TABOR

September 18, 2012
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Aided by reading glasses, strong black coffee or methamphetamine, the typical voter should be able to read this year’s state and local ballot issues in under an hour.

There are seven tax hike proposals from various levels of local government in El Paso County on the ballot and there is a common thread tying them all together.

A county sales tax hike would beef up the sheriff’s budget.

Manitou Springs proposes a mill levy increase to support the Pikes Peak Library District.

Calhan has a 1 percent sales tax for road and bridge work.

Fountain proposes a property tax increase for several targeted expenses. Fire districts in Tri-Lakes-Monument and Security propose property tax increases to pay for general operating expenses.

There is a measure that would extend an existing sales tax to pay for roads and bridges through the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which covers most of the county, including Colorado Springs.

What is the common link?

All contain language to exempt tax revenues from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), the most long-winded provision of the Colorado Constitution. TABOR’s author, convicted tax cheat Douglas Bruce, hails from Colorado Springs and for years conservatives have paid homage to TABOR, making it a central piece of their political catechism.

It speaks volumes that so many districts and towns in conservative El Paso County would be unanimous in including a provision exempting their tax proposals from TABOR. We should always listen to what our leaders say, but it pays real dividends to watch what they do — just in case there is a gulf between the two.

Lots of local officials say they still love TABOR, but all over the county, our leaders implicitly are saying it doesn’t make sense to apply TABOR’s maniacal math to new voter-approved taxes.

Those who must make sound budgeting decisions know TABOR isn’t about left vs. right, it’s about being able to add and subtract. Pro-TABOR hacks may write this piece off as the latest meanderings of the wild-eyed liberal columnist, but quite a few conservative local leaders appear to agree with him.

Check it out: That’s not Karl Marx running the town of Calhan. Chairman Mao has not taken over the Tri-Lakes-Monument Fire Protection District.

This isn’t to say all the measures should be approved. They must rise or fall on their own merits.

But it’s clear that in a broader way, common sense is prevailing. Even the TABOR capital of Colorado is quietly walking away from the dysfunctional measure we’ve tried to live with for 20 years.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Contact him at 719-636-0363 or



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