TABOR: It’s Failed States and Education Systems Across the Nation. Wyoming Would Be No Different.
The 2020 Budget Session begins on Monday. Several bills have dropped since Thursday, February 6, 2020. The Wyoming Education Association's lobbying team has been monitoring these very closely. Of concern is House Joint Resolution 2, the Taxpayer's bill of rights. The Taxpayer's bill of rights is what is more commonly known as a TEL or a tax expenditure limitation bill. TELs cripple the state's ability to generate revenue through taxation. Wyoming's economic hardships require that our legislators have all options available to them to generate the revenue of which the state is in dire need. These bills limit the state's ability to generate revenue without passing all taxation measures through a public vote. While on its face, this seems like an appropriate measure, the dynamics of state, county, and city budgets are complex and not readily accessible to the general public. With a name like the "Taxpayer's bill of rights," it is easy to see why a bill like this may garner support from the layman and special interest groups, alike, by name alone. However, multiple states' experiences with TELs demonstrate how pejorative these measures can be to education funding and general state funding.
Colorado passed TABOR, the Taxpayer's bill of rights, in 1992. Since the passage of TABOR in 1992, Colorado has suffered substantial negative impacts on their education funding, teacher pay, and school administration.
Funding education is significantly impacted by TELs like TABOR. Salaries for new teachers in Colorado are amongst the lowest in the nation. These low salaries have had a substantial impact on districts being able to attract and retain quality educators. Colorado's per pupil spending is also one of the lowest in the nation.
Ultimately, the goal of TELs like Colorado and now Wyoming's proposed Taxpayer's bill of rights is to reduce expenditures without the public's consent. However, what the years of history of TELs demonstrate is that—for states with less strict tax expenditure limitation laws—they were ineffective at reducing expenditures. For those states like Colorado and Missouri with very strict TELs, they have reduced expenditures. But, these reductions have come at the cost of increased budget volatility, negative impacts on education, healthcare, transportation, and infrastructure.
If Wyoming passes the Taxpayer's bill of rights, like other states before it, it will fail to produce intended savings and come at great expense to Wyoming's teachers, students, and education system.