I’m a skier. I love Colorado. There’s times when I’m home slip-sliding on our icy mountains (hills) here in this state that I’d like to pick up the Rockies and place them right here in North Carolina. But there’s one part of Colorado I don’t want to transport to our state: TABOR.
What is TABOR? The fact that you probably have to ask is what some North Carolina lawmakers are counting on. First, TABOR stands for Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Sounds great, right? That’s what Coloradans thought, too, when the bill passed in 1992.
Since then, the law has proved to be a Bill of Rights for only a select few. A 2015 study by Colorado State University found that more than 80% of Coloradans are paying more in property taxes now than they would have if TABOR never passed.
In 2005, Colorado voters temporarily suspended TABOR because of the damage it caused the state’s K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and health services. Tim Hoover with the Colorado Fiscal Institute says his state’s experience with TABOR has “been a complete and unmitigated disaster for the state of Colorado.”
Wow, that sounds like a great law to bring to North Carolina. Economists warn that by limiting income taxes in NC, policymakers will be forced to pursue revenue through sales tax, and local governments will be prompted to raise property taxes. It’s a strategy they’re already employing and I can only imagine what might happen when given the all-clear by an amendment.
North Carolina lawmakers have enacted three tax hikes in the last three years and through new sales and service taxes and fees you’re paying more to get your car repaired and send your kid to college. Meanwhile, the state’s wealthiest continue to enjoy tax breaks and cuts on the backs of the rest of the state.
TABOR will amend the state constitution to make it difficult to remove such policies in the future — even if they fail. Policymakers already have the ability to impact tax rates and policies. Allowing them to do it under a “Bill of Rights” and armed with a constitutional amendment will remove the checks and balances so important to our democracy.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The North Carolina Budget & Tax Center objects to TABOR, calling it “The HB2 of state budget and tax policy ideas.” Last week, AARP North Carolina spoke out against the policy. North Carolina’s Treasurer Janet Cowell has warned that TABOR “poses a real danger to our state’s finances and reputation.”
TABOR. Understand it. Research it. Supporters are counting on the fact that you won’t and they’ll slip this through to our books. Trust me, if they’re successful, we’ll all be hiking a mountain (of the Colorado variety) to remove it.