It is difficult to tell from press reports whether or not Speaker Romanoff’s plan to propose to voters a way to simplify the state Constitutional constraints has a realistic political chance of moving forward.
On the plus side, the Denver Post did editorialize positively about it today, Romanoff does have a Republican co-sponsor, and he doesn’t face a bunch of competing proposals this year. On the negative side, it requires two-thirds votes, the governor is non-committal, and the late introduction leaves little time to build a supportive campaign.
Regardless of the political prospects, it is also hard to tell if this is a good solution. In some sense, given the current Constitutional contradictions and vise-like grip on the state budget (and therefore the virtual irrelevance, in a budgetary sense, of the legislators themselves, in terms of representative government), virtually any proposal is likely to be an improvement. And, achieving comprehensive reform in a time of single subject initiatives and referred measures, absent a Constitutional convention, is nearly impossible. So, Romanoff deserves credit for trying.
The idea behind the deal seems to be: keep the TABOR requirement to vote on new taxes, eliminate the spending limit, end the Amendment 23 requirement of K-12 budget growth, but protect K12 spending with a reserve fund, and maintain Senate Bill 1’s requirement that increased revenue, above a certain level, flow to transportation.
I suppose a computer at the Budget Office could figure out all of the future scenarios for this compromise, but I can’t. In good economic times, it seems clear that more tax revenues would flow in, which state government could now retain, though much of that would then flow to transportation. It is less clear how K-12 and higher education would do under this plan.
In any event, kudos to Romanoff for opening a serious discussion, and it is probably worth figuring out the pros and cons in more detail.
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