Colorado’s fiscal situation is a mess.
Last week, the governor announced his budget for the 2011 fiscal year. As has been par, the budget proposal included a variety of cuts to numerous budget lines including more than $50 million in cuts to higher education.
In addition, the proposal also included numerous increases in allocations and tax credit cuts — something unusual for the state.
Under Colorado law, taxes cannot increase more than 6 percent in any given year. Tax hikes also require voter approval, and in a state as stingy about tax money as this one, voter approval is often hard to come by.
However, a recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling determined that repealing tax breaks and credits does not constitute an actual raise and does not, therefore, require voter approval, and that is just shady.
Colorado is in trouble; there’s no doubt about that. Anything we can do to balance the budget without cutting more social services and education funding is a plus, even if it means cutting bull semen tax credits (apologies to the state’s ranching community).
But, when Colorado constitutional law demands voter approval to raise taxes, voter approval needs to be the final say, not just a consideration overruled by a group of legal experts. By legal technicality, cutting tax breaks may not be an actual raise, but on a fundamental level — on the taxpayer pocketbook level — this proposal is nothing if not a hike.
Budgetary concerns need to be a top priority for Colorado’s lawmakers and voters, but circumventing the state Constitution and voters’ rights seems more than a little totalitarian. Colorado’s government needs to remember for whom it works for.