Hamner: TABOR is slowing Colorado’s economy down (column) | SummitDaily.com

Hamner: TABOR is slowing Colorado’s economy down (column)

I’ve had a little time to reflect on the 2015 legislative session and am already looking forward to the 2016 session.

I’m a member of the Joint Budget Committee, which produced a 2015-16 state budget that is balanced, bipartisan and responsible. It preserves critical priorities of the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, and it provides funding for vital services that help address the growing needs of our state and strengthen the middle class across Colorado.

I will become chairwoman of the JBC in November when we begin preparing the state budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, and I hope the next budget will serve the people of Colorado as well as the current one is doing.

But the next budget will be especially difficult because, even though most parts of the state are thriving and we’ll have more than $11 billion in the general fund, essentially all of that money is already spoken for. We’ll have trouble maintaining — let alone improving — the services the people of Colorado count on our state government to provide.

Why? Because we’ve hit the TABOR wall.

Colorado’s economy is heading up the pass at 65 mph, but, because of the constitutional revenue caps known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, our state’s ability to provide services is crawling along in the slow lane with its flashers on.

We could afford to spend more to provide the best education for our kids, improve our roads and bridges and spur economic development beyond the Front Range. Instead, TABOR requires that we refund a portion of the state taxes we collect.

I know it’s nice to get a check in the mail. But I think we need to have a conversation about whether it’s better to have an extra $17 — that’s the average size of the TABOR refund we’ll receive in 2016 — or some extra money for schools and roads, to name just two high-priority categories of state spending.

We also need to debate the implications of the recent Colorado State University study that found that 81 percent of Colorado property owners are paying more taxes as a result of TABOR, not less.

I don’t expect this conversation to be an easy one, and I do expect it to generate a lot of hot air down in Denver. Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of the legislature will certainly be involved. But I’m hoping Coloradans in all corners of the state — including our mountain counties — will get their say, too.

That’s one reason I’m touring my district this month and into early October, with upcoming stops in Lake, Summit and Pitkin counties. I’ll be in Summit County on Sept. 30, when Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will be my special guest from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Family and Intercultural Resource Center on West 4th Street in Silverthorne. From 4-5:30 p.m., I’ll host a town hall meeting at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco. Then, it’s off to Pug Ryan’s in Dillon for a Meet & Greet Happy Hour from 6-7:30 p.m. Please come to any or all of these events, and tell me your concerns and priorities. If you can’t join me, you can contact my office at (303) 866-2952 or email me at rephamner@gmail.com.

With your input, I’ll be better able to represent you down in Denver. Together, we’ll come up with what’s best for Colorado and its people, and we’ll strike the right balance between the needs of a growing, increasingly prosperous state and our Western tradition of low taxes.

State Rep. Millie Hamner, a Democrat, represents House District 61, including Summit, Lake and Pitkin counties and parts of Gunnison and Delta counties.

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