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Colorado duo object to labeling TABOR a failure

Not everyone has agreed with Gov. Jan Brewer’s characterization of TABOR as “an experiment that failed” in her veto of HB2707, and some advocates are bristling that Colorado is being used in that way.

Penn Pfiffner, a former Colorado state legislator and advocate of TABOR, said when he first heard what Brewer had said in her veto letter, he began speculating as to what she must mean.

“The only thing I can think of is that politicians do not like those constraints,” he said. “They like to have an open checkbook.”

By Pfiffner’s estimation, TABOR was successful in limiting the growth of government and keeping Colorado out of a state of crisis during the recession. Under TABOR, if the government wants to keep the excess revenue they’ve collected, it’s up to the taxpayers to approve it — a check Pfiffner argues is crucial to control the size of government.

The characterization of TABOR as a failure in Colorado, he said, suggests that the governor is misinformed.

“These allegations seem to be purposefully ignorant,” he said. “We come away not feeling whipped or belittled, but shaking our heads at the misrepresentation.”

He later said that only “radical leftists” considered TABOR a failure. Pfiffner now serves as director of the Fiscal Policy Center for the Independence Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Golden, Colo.

Barry Poulson, an economist and a senior fellow at the Independence Institute, says TABOR has been a success. By keeping the growth of government in line with that of the public sector, Colorado has been able to lower taxes across the board, he argued, including income tax, sales tax, property tax, and business personal tax.

“By doing so, we created one of the best business climates in the nation,” Poulson said.

Poulson thinks the perception of TABOR as a failure was driven by special interest groups, like the education lobby, pushing that narrative.

“It’s a perception that your governor has simply accepted, and I think that’s a very naive way of looking at it,” Poulson said.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said he wasn’t aware of any backlash against the governor’s comments, and seemed puzzled by the allegations that she was either in favor of government spending or ignorant.

“I would point out that few officials were bigger supporters of the TABOR than former (Colorado) Governor Bill Owens,” Benson said. “And he was the one going back to taxpayers asking them to suspend the efforts. Would they include him in (those allegations) too?”

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