Last year, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected last year’s ballot measure that amounted to a multibillion-dollar tax increase on families and businesses. But taxpayers beware: pro-tax activists are back on the ballot again this November with a measure to weaken Colorado’s historic Taxpayer Bill of Rights, so that they can more easily pass tax increases in the future.

This year’s ballot measure is Proposition CC, which would alter TABOR in a way that would take money out of taxpayers’ pockets. Since it was approved by voters in 1992, TABOR has provided Coloradans with the strongest set of taxpayer protections in the country. By guaranteeing refunds of excessive taxes, restricting spending to sensible growth rates, and giving Coloradans the ability to vote on tax increases, TABOR has been instrumental in the state’s booming economy. Without TABOR, Colorado would likely not be one of the fastest growing states in the country, even as the state continues to rank high on measurements of public health and education.

Since TABOR limits the amount of money the state is allowed to spend, surplus revenue in excess of the cap must be refunded to Colorado taxpayers. Generally, the revenue cap on the state level grows with inflation plus population increases. Due to a strong economy, however, revenue collections are coming in above the caps, which means the state will have to refund about $500 million to Colorado taxpayers next year, and about $1.3 billion over the next three years. For millions of taxpayers across the state, these refunds could help cover a week’s worth of groceries, family activities, or even help to pay some rent.

But as of now, potentially $1.3 billion in refunds to taxpayers are in limbo and could be scrapped forever.

That’s because in the 2019 legislative session, the Democratic-controlled legislature agreed to place Proposition CC onto the November ballot. If approved by voters, TABOR’s provision for refunds would be gutted, thereby allowing the treasury to retain all excess revenue it is required to return to taxpayers. That means taxpayers would forfeit future refunds from 2019 on. Just put that into perspective: taxpayers will send an extra $1.3 billion to the treasury than what would normally be spent. Instead of giving that money back to you as required by TABOR, lawmakers want Coloradans to forget about overpayments so they can just spend it on other things in the budget.

Tax-and-spend politicians are trying to hoodwink taxpayers into supporting this misguided proposition, but voters shouldn’t fall for it. TABOR is working as designed: limiting the growth of government, protecting taxpayers, and ensuring working Coloradans keep more of their hard-earned money. And despite a multiyear suspension of TABOR, since 1992 more than $3 billion has been refunded back to taxpayers in the form of lower property, sales, and income taxes.

Politicians shudder at the prospect of the government returning unused tax dollars back to the people. Other special interests, especially public-sector employee unions and others who live off of government largess, claim that TABOR has led to “deep cuts” in government services. Colorado hasn’t experienced crippling cuts, as spending has more than doubled in the past two decades. The tax-and-spenders ignore the fact that TABOR does not stop the growth of government; it only manages that growth to a reasonable rate, while the people decide whether they can afford more.

Defeating Proposition CC should be a top priority for every taxpayer who believes they send enough money to the government. A resounding no vote will send a clear signal to revenue-hungry lawmakers and special interests that Coloradans are serious about their constitutional protections. And hopefully, public officials will think twice about continuing their assaults on TABOR or plotting to raise taxes.

Once Proposition CC is rebuffed, it is crucial for lawmakers to get to work on tax relief and measures to strengthen TABOR. In fact, Gov. Jared Polis even supported an NTU-endorsed bill that would have lowered the income tax rate. But ultimately, the governor and Legislature failed to deliver and instead focused their efforts on weakening TABOR.

Hopefully in the next session, all lawmakers make tax relief and reform a priority to keep Colorado’s economy roaring for years to come. But until then, taxpayers and voters should focus on protecting TABOR and defeating another bad tax measure for the second year in a row.

Thomas Aiello is a policy and government affairs associate with the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for taxpayers at all levels of government.

Thomas Aiello is a policy and government affairs associate with the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for taxpayers at all levels of government.

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