Coloradans are fortunate to have a statewide savings plan, but I fear many have forgotten it. After Amendment 66, the billion dollar tax increase, was soundly defeated in the November 5 election, it’s time to remember the only reason we voted on the tax bill: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Over the years, it has saved us untold billions. But something far greater than money has been saved: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) saves our freedom.
First, a bit of history. Long ago, people began living in groups, which allowed them to divide labor and send the men to hunt while the women gathered nuts and berries. With more hands to lift heavy objects, they built larger and better huts. Eventually, some groups started attacking and plundering other groups. The need for protection of the group arose, and some members were given the responsibility. They made weapons, developed patrols and built headquarters. Thus government was born.
Government was better armed than the hunters and gatherers, so they were given the added responsibility of policing their own community, and acting as judges in disputes within the community. They developed reputations for being dispassionate, uncaring wielders of power, much like Republicans. To soften that reputation and protect their superior positions, they began to abuse their power by taking property and giving it to people it didn’t belong to, much like Democrats.
Protecting and enhancing power became a routine function of government. The original purpose of the government - protecting property and solving disputes – became secondary. Government built larger headquarters, because it needed more room for rapidly expanding cadres of armed enforcers, judges, politicians and bureaucrats. The hunters and gatherers had now become farmers, factory workers, builders, and social workers (the latter were needed to help spread confiscated property in a way that seemed caring and helpful for society.)
With every expansion, more taxes were needed to support government. The citizens were still poorly armed compared to the government, having only a vote to defend themselves. Voting allowed for a peaceful transition of power, but it did little to suppress government’s desire for growth and power.
In 1992, Coloradans recognized the threat of un-restrained government. They had seen government buy power with money it taxes away from citizens. Their only tool to stop the unrelenting growth of government was the vote. But voting for or against politicians who rarely restrain themselves is woefully inadequate, so they approved a Constitutional amendment that gave taxpayers exclusive authority to approve tax increases. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) was born.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limits government growth to inflation plus population growth. Should government need more than that? Government services are designed to serve the population. If the population survived in 1992 with the government it had at the time, do the citizens of Colorado need more government per person today than we had then? Some would say yes, that Coloradans have become lazy, weak, inept, and incapable of survival without government’s generosity to the weakest among us. And a few others. Plus their friends. And politically favored industries that pay for campaigns. And…well, you get the point.
But this is Colorado. We’re made up of Coloradans, people with a long history of rugged self-reliance, the ability to endure the harshest conditions Colorado’s nature can throw at us. We conquer mountains. We drive in the snow. Against all odds, we got Peyton Manning. We can do any damned thing we set our minds to. I’m just not sure we can survive the destructive force of unrestrained government.
Which brings us to Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Our government put us on a path to a billion dollar annual tax increase. Nearly 1.4 million taxpayers told government what they thought of the idea. Without the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Colorado’s multi-billion dollar savings plan, they would never have had that opportunity. Our right to approve of our government would be less. Freedom would be lost in the not-so hallowed-halls of the state legislature, not saved. The People, through TABOR, protected ourselves from government encroaching on our freedom and livelihoods. I hope that Coloradan's never lose sight of that.