Relief from unfunded mandates, more generous spending limits for schools, and disincentives for the state to reduce local aids are all part of an amended version of the Lasee-Wood Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), offered by the authors on April 23.
“This amended Lasee-Wood TABOR is the result of a lot of work,” said Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue). “We’ve talked with as many people as we could. Elected officials, interest groups from all sides, taxpayers. We took everyone’s thoughts into account, and we spent a lot of time learning from the experiences other states have had with tax and spending limits.”
“Taxpayers in this state need protection,” said Rep. Jeff Wood (R-Chippewa Falls). “Our tax burden is too high. It hurts our economy, and people’s ability to stay in Wisconsin.
“I hope this compromise will help relieve some of the concerns we’ve heard in the legislature and around the state,” Wood said.
Lasee and Wood first introduced their TABOR proposal in November 2003. The new bill, introduced on April 23, makes the following changes to the original proposal:
- Inflation growth, the principal factor on which the TABOR limits are based, will be calculated as the average of inflation growth over the past three years, rather than a single year.
- Spending limits for schools and technical schools are increased.
- Governments are given more options for maintaining spending levels during economic downturns.
- A budget stabilization fund, funded with revenues received in excess of the TABOR limits, is created.
- The requirements for bonding referenda have been loosened.
“This amended version answers all the reasonable criticisms,” Lasee said, “and it still does what TABOR is designed to do, what constitutions are supposed to do: Protect the citizens from their government.”
Colorado’s TABOR has broad support among taxpayers, Lasee notes. “A poll conducted last March  showed 60 percent of Colorado residents support the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. A further 16 percent support it but want some changes, and only 15 percent oppose it,” notes Lasee.
“Critics say TABOR will devastate crucial services in Wisconsin. If that’s true, how do we explain the support it still has in Colorado after 10 full years? And remember, this poll was taken at the tail end of the national recession, when Colorado, like most other states, was dealing with deficits and, therefore, reductions in spending,” he adds.
Lance Burri works in the office of Rep. Frank Lasee. His email address is [email protected].
For more information …
A PDF version of the amendment and a Legislative Council paper about the amendment are available on the Internet at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/assembly/asm02/news/tabor.html.