Colorado seeks to squash tax limit challenge

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Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights faces a direct challenge in federal court Wednesday when attorneys for the state will ask a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by lawmakers seeking to overturn the amendment voters approved in 1992.

The bipartisan group of state lawmakers argue the TABOR measure strips legislative bodies of the power to tax and spend. They say TABOR violates the U.S. Constitution, which designated certain powers to the branches of government.

TABOR forbids state lawmakers and local elected bodies from raising taxes without a vote by the people. It also puts severe restrictions on spending, limiting officials’ ability to respond in an economic downturn.

“However attractive it might have seemed, this assertion of direct democracy is not permitted,” according to the lawsuit seeking to throw out the measure.

On the other side, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration is asking a federal judge to toss the lawsuit. The executive branch has warned of dire consequences for Colorado’s citizen initiative process if the TABOR lawsuit succeeds.

The state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit will be argued Wednesday before U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez.

“We want to restore one of the fundamental tenets of the (U.S.) Constitution, that we are a republic,” said David Skaggs, a lawyer who will argue for the lawmakers.

A spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, whose office asked for the lawsuit’s dismissal, didn’t return a message for comment Tuesday.

Martinez had no deadline to decide whether to dismiss the lawsuit.