Best idea ever from the mayor: A TABOR timeout

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In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Lionel Rivera suggested placing a measure on the November ballot that would ask voters to allow the city to retain TABOR surpluses for the next three years.

It’s a good idea.

The request should be placed on the ballot, and voters should approve it.

Colorado Springs has gone through some tough financial times, and without a TABOR timeout, the city will not be able to restore some of the services lost in the downturn, even though the economy will be getting stronger.

The National Bureau of Economic Research says the nation slipped into recession at the end of 2007, and it wasn’t long after that the effects were being felt here in Colorado Springs.

Home foreclosure numbers skyrocketed, and city tax revenue streams began to run dry.

City officials warned they would not be able to continue some city services without a tax increase, so they came up with a plan to raise property taxes to simply maintain city services such as police and fire protection and park maintenance.

The property tax initiative went on the ballot, but voters rejected it. They didn’t want a tax increase, which was fine, given that it represented the will of the people.

But that’s what’s great about the mayor’s TABOR-timeout suggestion. It’s not a tax hike and yet it will lift tax revenue-collections caps while maintaining voter authority on any proposed tax increases.

TABOR’s tax-revenue collection limit is based on a calculation of inflation and local growth in the previous year. If tax collections are below the TABOR limit during a given year, then the lower collection level becomes the next year’s cap. And whatever tax revenue that is collected over and above the cap must be returned to voters, or the city must ask voters to keep it and spend it.

So, without a TABOR timeout, even if the economy continues to get stronger and city tax revenues grow, the city will likely not be able to restore city services.

Colorado Springs’ budget cuts have been severe, and the city has suffered enough — all in full view of the rest of the nation.

It’s time for the city to recover by simply letting it do what’s natural — keep its tax revenue.

City Council should vote to put the initiative on the ballot, and voters should choose to heal our city.