Monday, June 13, 2005

Three Reasons to Vote Against TABOR

You will see me blog about the TABOR amendment. It’s one of my things. I am involved in this coalition opposing the amendment and feel it will be the most important issue in the November election.

For the uninitiated, TABOR would allow government spending to grow no faster than either the Consumer Price Index plus inflation or 3.5 percent. This formula has been tried in one other state – Colorado – and has been a slow-motion train wreck over the last few years. TABOR’s main problem is that the CPI is an inadequate measure of the rising cost of providing government services, primarily health care. The website has lots more info if you need a primer.

One of the many problems with TABOR is its inflexibility. Problems crop up; new needs become apparent; citizens clamor for help and TABOR stands unyielding. Brand new programs to address a brand new problem? Fine, says TABOR. Just fit it under the cap or find someplace else to cut. But because of the discrepancy between the growth rate allowed and the rising cost of doing business, TABOR requires cuts every year. There simply is no room for any new programs.

What kinds of programs am I talking about. Check out today’s Beacon Journal. First we have the page one spread on the spread of methamphetamine manufacture in NEO. When I was a prosecutor we were told this was coming our way (the knowledge and meth culture has been making its way east for the last 15 years or so.) Then we saw a little. Then we saw a lot. Now we have meth labs popping up all over and each one requires money to clean it up.

Next, on the front of the local section we have a story about cormorants. It seems the water birds are also invading Ohio and causing some significant problems for commercial fisheries and for the environment. ODNR’s solution is a grim one – a large scale kill program. But the point is, again we have a new problem and need to fund a solution.

What strikes me about both of these examples is that neither is high on the liberal wish list. The problems presented are problems that bother conservatives just as much or, in the case of the cormorants, even more than liberals. TABOR isn’t just about taking money from liberal social programs, it will starve the state’s ability to address the most basic needs of the state.

The third reason to vote against TABOR appears in the editorial section. The General Assembly is arguing over how to spend an unanticipated tax windfall. Democrats want to pump it back into schools and local government funds; conservatives want to build up the Rainy Day Fund and of course they have to talk about tax cuts. The point is this: this is how democracy works. We have more money than we thought we would and our elected representatives are arguing about what to do with it. They are not automatically spending it, they are debating how to best serve their constituents. It is messy, it is sometimes ugly and usually at least half of us are unsatisfied with the outcome. But that is the best way we have found to order our society. TABOR’s hocus-pocus won’t magically make things better, only harder.