Last Updated: June 25, 2011
This article appeared in the June 2011 Rural Policy Matters.
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A group of plaintiffs that includes current and former state legislators, local officials, and school board members is challenging Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights law (TABOR) in district court, saying that it is unconstitutional. Representatives of rural districts Pueblo 70 and Steamboat Springs are among those suing the state.
The lawsuit claims that TABOR, which limits state revenue and requires voters to approve tax increases, is a form of direct democracy that violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a republican (or “representative”) form of government because it takes away the legislature’s power to impose taxes to pay for government services.
TABOR supporters say that a finding that the initiative is unconstitutional will also overturn all other voter initiatives in the state. They also claim that TABOR has played an important role in keeping government spending habits in check since it went into effect in 1992.
It has been nearly a century since courts have addressed whether an initiative violates the requirement that states have a republican form of government.
This lawsuit addresses one of the issues that is also a part of Colorado’s school funding case, Lobato v. State. Lobato, which was originally filed in 2005, charges that the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education. That trial is scheduled for later this summer in Denver. Plaintiffs include parents and districts primarily from rural Colorado and are represented by Rural Trust Board Member Kathleen Gebhardt.
Local coverage of TABOR suit:
Website of plaintiffs’ organization in school funding adequacy suit, Children’s Voices:
Read more from the June 2011 Rural Policy Matters.