We’ve reported about the Taxpayers Bill of Rights several times – its under serious threat from the spending lobby and now the Republican Governor of Colorado. This just from the AP: State agencies are recommending $256 million in budget cuts next year, including the permanent closing of 11 state parks and eliminating 210 jobs in the health department, if voters reject a measure on the Nov. 1 ballot to relax the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The cuts are included in budgets prepared by the governor’s office that will be presented to lawmakers next month. A summary of the proposed cuts was released after the AP submitted a Freedom of Information Act request. Department heads recommended saving $12 million by eliminating state support for the Colorado Indigent Care Program for uninsured hospital patients; cutting college financial aid by $7.7 million; capping the inmate population in prisons; and eliminating the vehicle emissions program along the Front Range. They also recommended eliminating instant criminal background checks for gun buyers and cutting $10 million from job placement centers. A total of 605 state jobs would be cut. State parks listed for possible closure are Crawford, Barr Lake, Lory, Bonny Lake, Roxborough, Harvey Gap, Sweitzer, Mancos, Spinney Mountain, Paonia and San Luis Lakes. Another 15 would be closed on a seasonal basis. Gov. Bill Owens asked state agencies to prepare two budgets this year. One would be used if voters reject Referenda C and D on the Nov. 1 ballot, and the other would be used they pass. Referendum C asks voters to give up $3.7 billion in tax refunds over the next five years that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers. Referendum D would allow the state to borrow up to $2.1 billion for roads, school maintenance, pensions and other projects. Jon Caldara, the lead opponent of the measures, said the budgets are part of a scare campaign. “What a ridiculous, last-minute scare tactic,” he said. Caldara said Colorado could raise money by selling vacant state property and converting annual payments from a legal settlement with tobacco companies into a single lump-some payout. Instead, he said, “the state has decided to bring Halloween early this year.” Owens spokesman Dan Hopkins said the governor had to have two budgets ready to be prepared for either outcome. Hopkins said the governor has not approved the proposals, which are due in mid-November. “These are not scare tactics. We were forced to do two budgets,” Hopkins said. Katy Atkinson, spokeswoman for Vote Yes On C & D, said the proposed cuts are a realistic picture of what will happen if voters reject the proposed budget fix. Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, said some of the proposed cuts to health care would be counterproductive. “You’re going to have people literally in the street. You’re going to have such a cost shift to hospitals it will overwhelm hospitals and drive up the cost of health care,” Hagedorn said. Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, said higher education would be hurt. “I think we’ll have to close community colleges and tuition will be unaffordable for the average Colorado citizen,” she said. A new study released by Reason and Americans for Prosperity has a different take. Let alone the over $400 million in savings we identified in February.
Geoffrey Segal is the director of privatization and government reform at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. He is also editor of Reason's Privatization Watch.