State Rep. Donna Sheldon (R- Dacula) doesn’t think so and is heading a Study Committee tasked with examining the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights(TABOR) being used in Colorado and under consideration in several other States.
Colorado’s TABOR limits the percentage growth of the State budget to the rate of inflation plus the population growth. For example if the rate of inflation is 3% and the population grows by 3%, then the maximum the State budget could grow would be 6%. In addition, any tax revenue surplus collected by Colorado must be returned to the taxpayers.
Last month, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey testified before the Study Committee in favor of TABOR. While the press did not cover his testimony, the Gwinnett Daily Post did publish this editorial written by Armey. In it Armey says:
During the prosperous 1990s, Georgia wasted a lot of state money it could have refunded to the taxpayers. Between fiscal years 1991 and 2003, state spending in Georgia outpaced the increase in inflation combined with population growth by 5.6 percent or $780 million. That $780 million was spent, just like the surpluses generated in other states.
But in Colorado, TABOR kept the state on a responsible budget path. There, state spending grew only at the rate of population growth plus inflation and taxpayers got refunds. Over a five-year period, for example, the state gave back $3.25 billion in refunds. A typical Colorado family of four got a refund of approximately $3,200.
Yesterday, the Study Committee heard from people opposed to TABOR type restrictions. The Gwinnett Daily Post reported some of the testimony:
The vast majority of state spending increases that occurred during the economic boom of the 1990s were due to conscious policy decisions by the governor and General Assembly, said Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
As examples, he cited teacher pay raises, the creation of a children’s health insurance program and increases in prison spending that followed tough-on-crime laws enacted by the Legislature.
“The state did not grow out of control,” Essig told committee members.
“It grew out of policy decisions that, I’m sure, most of you fundamentally agree with. … What is the problem we’re trying to fix?”
And then there’s this:
Two lobbyists representing Georgia cities and counties said they were afraid that capping state spending would cost their communities vital state aid, forcing local governments to cut other programs to plug the gap.
Personally, I think TABOR is a good idea and should be implemented in some fashion here in Georgia. There will always be something to spend tax revenue on and politicians of both parties are subject to the temptation to spend.
In fact, I would like to see Republican’s run on this issue in 2006. Here me out on this: Conservatives worry that perhaps Georgia’s Republicans will follow the lead of our Washington brothers and sisters and spend like drunken sailors. Embracing TABOR would dispel that fear, set the agenda for 2006 and bring small-government advocates back home to the GOP.
Rep. Sheldon’s Study Committee will continue to meet and take testimony, but like any major reform of government it will take a strong grassroots effort to get it going. I hope people study this idea and let their Representatives know they support it. The GOP should stand for smaller government and passing a law to insure a slower rate of government growth would be a good thing.