polis

Jared Polis. Photo by John Leyba/Special to the Denver Gazette

Like a lottery jackpot, Colorado’s state revenue surplus keeps growing. And so do the rebates that will be returned to the state’s taxpayers in the next few months. The latest news, reported Wednesday in The Gazette, is taxpayers can expect to receive at least $750 in the mail — up from the previous $500 estimate.

It’s welcome news, of course, especially as the nation’s economy goes sideways amid spiraling inflation. The $750 checks that will go out to individual tax filers — $1,500 for couples filing jointly — will be a boon to many Coloradans who are finding it ever harder to make ends meet. Some 3.1 million Coloradans will receive a refund directly in the mail in August or September.

The hype and hoopla surrounding the refunds makes it sound like Colorado’s current political leadership came up with the idea out of the blue. And out of the kindness of their hearts. As if they decided, all on their own, to rain manna on Colorado’s cash-strapped households.

“We are providing real relief when Coloradans need it most," Gov. Jared Polis said of the refunds this week. "Everyone in our state is feeling the impact of rising costs, and I refuse to let the government sit on taxpayers’ money when it could be used to make life a little bit easier for the people of our state.”

Wow, thanks, guv! Our Democratic chief exec from Boulder could have delivered that line at the next Republican National Convention and felt right at home.

Only, let’s not forget that the state is constitutionally required to return the excess tax revenue. And while the specific means of refunding the surplus this time, checks sent by mail, was authorized by legislation this year, the refunds ultimately are the handiwork of Colorado voters — way back in 1992. That’s when they adopted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

Ever since then, Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution has bound state and local governments in Colorado to limit annual budget increases to no more than the rates of growth and inflation combined. Any tax revenue collected above that rate must be returned to the public unless voters agree on the next ballot to let the government keep their money.

It’s hard to miss the irony in all this. Make no mistake, the Democrats who wield all the levers of power in state government these days — and who now are touting election-year tax refunds like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise — by and large loathe TABOR.

Time and again, it has deprived them of play money with which to grow government and conjure up new programs. They and their similarly inclined predecessors in office have fought TABOR at every turn and attempted endless end runs on it for decades. In court, in the legislature, you name it.

Yet, now, as the economy falters and polling looks problematic for their party going into the fall midterm election, they’re only too happy to cherry-pick TABOR’s fruits and rebrand them “the Colorado Cash Back Rebate.”

To be fair, Polis has distinguished himself somewhat from the rest of his party on taxation, having even called at one point for an end to the state income tax. But generation after generation of his fellow Democrats have been no friend of TABOR. Or for that matter, of the average Colorado taxpayer.

Just sayin’.

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