- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

DENVER — Whether Oklahoma voters approve a spending-limits proposal known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights next year could hinge on what happens next month in Colorado.

Colorado voters will decide Nov. 1 whether to suspend the state’s landmark cap on state and local spending, known by the acronym TABOR, and the result is expected to resonate in at least a dozen states now considering similar legislation and ballot initiatives.

In some states, the Colorado vote already is being used to sway voters. The fact that Colorado is even considering Referendum C, which would overturn TABOR for five years, shows that the state’s 1992 spending-cap law is a bad idea, said David Blatt, public-policy director for the Community Action Project in Tulsa, Okla.

Oklahomans in Action, a citizens group, has filed a petition to place its own TABOR on the 2006 ballot, and the state Legislature is expected to consider a similar proposal when it convenes next year.

“Oklahoma shouldn’t follow Colorado into a budget crisis,” Mr. Blatt said.

That kind of rhetoric worries Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, one of several national groups aiding state organizers with the TABOR effort. Having Colorado voters overturn TABOR undoubtedly would be a hit to the movement, although not a fatal one, he said.

“It certainly wouldn’t help these efforts,” Mr. Sepp said. “At the same time, many of these TABORs have taken on a life of their own because of the unique fiscal problems facing their states. Even without the Colorado TABOR, there would be a high level of citizen activism in places like Maine and Wisconsin, where there’s been a big blowup over taxes.”

In Maine, Mary Adams, head of the state’s TABOR movement, said her campaign continues to extol the Colorado example, despite Referendum C.

“We consider Colorado to be a great example to follow. They were there early, and they’ve proven it can be done,” Mrs. Adams said.

Like Colorado’s TABOR, the Maine measure would limit state spending growth to inflation plus population growth, as well as provide a refund for taxpayers. The proposal needs 50,519 signatures submitted by Oct. 21, and has more than 50,000 so far, she said.

In Wisconsin, organizers are attempting to place a TABOR constitutional amendment on the 2007 ballot, but they need the support of both legislative houses to do so. The success of Colorado’s TABOR has been a major rallying cry, said J.J. Blonien, executive director of United Wisconsin.

“After TABOR, Colorado led the nation in job growth, personal-income growth and attracted a lot more people, businesses and development,” he said. “In Wisconsin, we have the lowest job creation in the country.”

Whether Referendum C passes should have little impact on the Wisconsin effort, Mr. Blonien said.

“People here are beyond the point for a taxpayer revolt,” he said. “What happens in Colorado is not even going to register on the radar.”

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