Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dumping TABOR, but for what?

Well, it's official. TABOR, the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, is dead. After 18 months of trying to herd cats in the Republican State Senate caucus, the TABOR folks have decided they will never get the 17 votes they need.

Last week, we were promised a "new TABOR," probably with a new name -- to get rid of any taint from Colorado, the first state to pass TABOR, which has experienced all sorts of problems and negative results.

But today TABOR is dead, a stake through its heart.

Don't click your heels just yet, though. There's something that sounds equally bad -- and equally vague -- in the works. The JS story:

...Grothman and Rep. Jeff Wood (R-Chippewa Falls) no longer speak of inflexible, TABOR-like spending limits.

"It's not a 'spending' limit," said Wood, adding that he had yet to explain all details of his final proposal to the Republicans who control the Assembly.

Instead, Republicans are focused on trying to impose controls on revenue, which they would define as taxes and most fees, on state and local governments. They say revenue controls would be a simpler way to restrain spending.

"It is much easier to define 'revenue' than it is to define 'spending,' " Grothman said . . .

Fine-print details of the constitutional change were still being worked out Tuesday by Grothman, Wood and legislative staff members. Neither lawmaker could provide a final draft of the proposal, which Grothman said had already been rewritten nine times.
Details be damned. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce already supports it:

The voters of Wisconsin deserve to be heard on high taxes,” said James A. Buchen, vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. “A constitutional amendment ultimately goes to the voters to let the people decide and they deserve the right to be heard.

“And, they deserve the right to know which elected officials support limits and which elected officials are against limits. A vote in both houses is critical to giving the people the truth on this issue.” WMC research has found strong voter support for tax limits.
Which makes you wonder if perhaps WMC lobbyists aren't writing the bill, too, as well as the press release.


At 3:32 PM, Blogger Sven said...

"It's not a 'spending' limit," said Wood.

Oh, jeebus christmas. I remember riding that rhetorical roller coaster when I interviewed Doug Bruce in 1992 (during which he called me a "commie degenerate").

The Colorado TABOR amendment is a revenue limit, plain and simple. The population-plus-inflation formula for state and local governments applies to revenue. It's the part of the measure that caused the biggest problem, because the revenue cap ratchets down permanently when the economy is weak.

The problems on the spending side were entirely unrelated and were caused by a stink bomb Bruce wrote into the amendment at the last minute.

The state legislature had just passed an unrelated measure limiting state spending. Bruce wanted to make the measure permanent by taking on a proviso in TABOR that said “limits on . . . spending and debt may be weakened only by future voter approval.” This created all kinds of confusion because Bruce's revenue rules often conflicted with the new spending limits.

No one thought of it at the time, but the "weakening provision" also effectively meant local governments could not float their mill levies to even out revenue from good to bad years. Rather than hold expensive elections every year, most governments opted to let the tax rate slide and force the state to pick up the slack in school funding.

Whether one calls it a spending limit or a revenue limit, the result was one huge cluster****.


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