To cap or not to cap

The Chron has a long article on the pros and cons of the two big city propositions on the ballot this year. I’ve expressed my concerns about Props 1 and 2 before, and I’ve got a long list of them. Here’s the one I’m thinking about today:

“What TABOR has meant for Colorado is a dramatic reduction in the kinds and amounts of public services the state has been able to provide for its citizens,” said Carol Hedges, director of the fiscal project at the Bell Policy Center, a Colorado group that opposes TABOR.

Hedges said Colorado voters sent a clear message in 2000 that TABOR wasn’t working by exempting kindergarten-to-12th-grade education funding from the revenue cap. She said because of spiraling costs, TABOR didn’t allow school funding to grow adequately.

Hedges said TABOR has caused Colorado to be hit much harder by the recent recession because of a ratchet-down effect: Since 2001, state revenues have fallen below the limit established by TABOR.

This means Colorado’s spending is falling behind population growth and inflation, because future revenue caps are calculated on the basis of lower revenues.

According to the Bell Policy Center, TABOR has forced Colorado to eliminate state funding for public health facilities, putting the entire funding burden on local governments; to lay off 100 judicial employees including 50 probation officers; to cut park funding by 54 percent; and to cut library funding by 79 percent.

“The debate in Houston should be about what services the citizens want cut,” Hedges said.

That’s pretty much how I see it, that both of these propositions will to some extent change the debate from “what should we fund?” to “what must we cut?” regardless of needs or resources. Oh, sure, there’s a mechanism to allow for an exception, but I doubt it’ll ever get used. Requiring a public vote is an expensive proposition, and who’s going to want to push for that when funds are tight anyway? Obviously, some people will see this kind of framing as a good thing. All I can say to you is that we fundamentally disagree.

Since Colorado was brought up as an example of how this kind of cap works in practice, I’ll note that Colorado Luis and the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network have many things to say about that state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Check it out.

All that said, given that there’s no high-profile, well-funded opposition to these propositions (other than each to the other), I must reluctantly conclude that my best bet is to vote for Prop 1 and against Prop 2. I’d prefer that neither would pass, but I strongly suspect that in reality both will, and given that, I want Prop 1 to have more votes since under that scenario only it would take effect. Do remember that if you vote a straight ticket, you still have to vote separately on the city propositions. You don’t want to miss out on this.

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2 Responses to To cap or not to cap

  1. blogHOUSTON says:

    The dueling propositions

    The Chronicle specializes in simplistic house editorials, and today’s endorsement of Proposition 1 was certainly a good example.

    Indeed, the headline really tells you all you need to know about …

  2. Kevin Whited says:

    That’s pretty much how I see it, that both of these propositions will to some extent change the debate from “what should we fund?” to “what must we cut?”

    Well, THAT did NOT happen in the two years since this was posted.

    It’s always good to reflect on these sorts of predictions, I think.

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