Unforeseen consequences

Feb 152004
Authors: Christopher Ortiz

It happens every time. The blonde in the high heels is running

away from the villain and instead of escaping out the front door

she runs upstairs, trapping herself while the audience members

shake their heads ponderously and ask “why?”

This November, voters may be asking the same question when

legislators give them the choice of deciding whether or not they

want to eliminate state funding for Colorado universities and


If you thought an 11 percent increase in tuition this year was

bad, if this happens, prepare to pay double or even triple in

tuition. If passed, the next amount due in your tuition bill could

be $3,744 or a staggering $5,616 for in-state students.

The proposed legislation is devised not save the state from

drowning in its pool of budget problems, but to merely throw it a

life preserver to keep it afloat for the time being. For the third

year in a row, the Joint Budget Committee is faced with the task of

cutting government agencies, program and funding – including higher

education – to the tune of $150 million. Sen. Ron Teck, R-Garfield

and Mesa counties, wants to eliminate higher ed funding to help

eliminate the state’s projected $450 million deficit.

It might not seem like it, but it’s either cut and/or eliminate

funding for us or cut Medicaid funding – including prescription

drug coverage and nursing home subsidies, according to a Sunday

Denver Post article.

This makes either Teck or the JBC look like the villain.

The villain isn’t Teck or the JBC or even Gov. Bill Owens. The

big, bad monster in this budget horror flick is the Taxpayer’s Bill

of Rights. A bill aimed at capping state expenditures and giving

taxpayers refunds when the state had a surplus has now hamstrung

Colorado. TABOR has become the Frankenstein’s monster for Colorado


And like all bad horror flicks, the sequels are always worse.

Colorado’s higher education system has lost $179 million since the

2001-02 fiscal year. This year, higher ed institutions will have to

share $591 million, down from $770.

If it was between me getting a quality education or cutting

grandma’s prescription plan – of course I would choose the latter,

but this bill makes it seem that those are the only two


This solution is a lose-lose. If voters decide to cut higher ed,

they might as well as start painting the closed signs they are

going to have to put on CSU’s front door. The resolution to the

state’s budget nightmare is not cutting higher ed or cutting

grandma’s Medicaid coverage – it’s killing TABOR. Instead of

running upstairs and trapping itself, Colorado needs to kick TABOR

squarely between the legs and head for the front door. When voters

approved TABOR in 1992, do you think they intended to kill high ed

or abandon grandma in the cold? Should we have to pay for TABOR’s

unforeseen consequences?

It is painfully obvious that TABOR has caused more damage than

good and that it needs to be removed from the state constitution or

be redefined so that lawmakers do not have to make a decision

between turning off grandma’s heat or killing higher ed. Only then

can we escape TABOR’s grasp.

Chris is the opinion editor for The Collegian. He is a senior

majoring in history and journalism.

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