GUEST EDITORIAL - More than two-thirds of Oklahoma taxpayers approve of holding the growth of state government to a reasonable level. Unfortunately, the other one-third – those who do not embrace responsible growth – are beginning to panic because of the TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) initiative. A natural impulse in a panic situation is to huddle in a defensive posture and try to protect your own at all cost. Such is the case with many tax-receiving groups around the state. There is an all-out effort with by big spenders to stifle good public policy by portraying a dishonest view of very good legislation.
You will hear from the opponents of TABOR that this legislation is “just like the one in Colorado” which has “wreaked havoc” in education, health care, and the entire state budget. Those who espouse such a notion are either being disingenuous or just ignorant of the facts. In either case I want to present the facts on this very important matter and ask you to judge for yourself.
The main point of TABOR is to limit the growth of government from one year to the next based on the combined total of inflation and population increase (“Popflation”). According to economists, think tanks, editorial boards, and taxpayers around the state, this is a fair and reasonable approach to help control the growth of government. There are very few politicians who will show restraint and self control when it comes to spending your money. That was evidenced again this year when the legislature increased spending at a whopping twelve percent, while Popflation grew at only three percent. Recently the Wall Street Journal reported that “TABOR gives government an incentive to take on self-correcting tasks that aren't in its nature.” The guardrails set in place by TABOR would give Oklahomans the power to rein in out-of-control spending and help ensure an indispensable prioritized budget.
It has been falsely editorialized that TABOR is a failure in Colorado and is responsible for destroying their state budget and has decreased funding for higher education. Once again, the facts tell quite a different story. The University of Colorado president led the charge to allow the colleges to be a part of an enterprise zone which issues funding vouchers to students instead of direct subsidies to the universities. This has been wildly popular with students as well as the parents who are paying for their child’s education.
As for TABOR being responsible for the budget woes, nothing could be further from the truth. In the decade before TABOR, personal income hardly grew, government added more jobs than the private sector, and zero dollars were refunded to taxpayers. In the last ten years since TABOR has been implemented, the Colorado budget has grown at a Popflation rate of 63% and yet taxpayers have received rebates of over 3.4 billion dollars. The $3.4 billion was reinvested into the private sector economy which increased personal income and constrained government growth. During this period of time, Colorado had the most robust and fastest growing economy in the entire nation. Between 1995 and 2000, Colorado ranked first in the nation in the growth of gross state product and second in the nation in personal income growth. That hardly sounds like a failed policy to me.
Although there have been two measures in the last 10 years to weaken TABOR, they have both been soundly defeated by the taxpayers. This year, the tax-and-spend crowd are once again trying to repeal TABOR in Colorado. All indications point to another defeat for the big spenders and a victory for the taxpayers.
It all boils down to this: We can either protect the old ways of Oklahoma politics or change the way we do business. It was reported in a local newspaper that “Oklahoma drags the bottom of the 50 states in almost any category.” I believe it is time for a change. Oklahomans have a chance to increase their personal income, reduce government spending, and expand the economy by passing The TABOR Amendment. How bad are we going to let things get before we say enough is enough? It’s time to TABORIZE!