Would emergency tax work in Colorado?

By Andrew Kenney


Colorado’s lawmakers have one main focus for the next few weeks: cuts, cuts and cuts.

When they reconvene at the legislature next week, they will have to find agreement on how to reduce state government spending for next year by billions of dollars.

The damage may be heaviest for education, health and social support programs, which make up the largest part of the budget. Democrats have even said they’re willing to consider rolling back the state’s new full-day kindergarten funding.

But some progressive groups think there’s another way: Find more money.

“We’ll start to reach kind of ludicrous levels of budget cuts,” said Scott Wasserman, president of the progressive-leaning Bell Policy Center. “The one thing that should be on the table is, how do we get more revenue on the table?”

That’s a difficult thing in Colorado. The state gets most of its tax revenues from personal income taxes and sales taxes, which have evaporated with businesses locked up. Raising those tax rates would normally require approval by the voters, since state spending is tightly constrained by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But TABOR itself provides another option. The law includes an “emergency tax” provision. It’s never been used before, but it could allow lawmakers to temporarily raise income taxes.

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