Get Colorado Off the Garvey Train

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Get Colorado Off the Garvey Train

by Douglas Bruce, May 1999

[Editor's Note: Bruce wrote the present article before the Colorado Supreme Court voted unanimously April 23 against Governor Bill Owen's bond proposal. The bond issue will go to a general vote this November.]

"The state shall not contract any debt by loan in any form..."
-- Colorado Constitution, Article XI, section 3 (adopted 1876)

"Districts must have voter approval in advance for creation
of any multiple-fiscal year direct or indirect district debt
or other financial obligation whatsoever..."
-- Colorado Constitution, Article X, Section 20(4)(b) (adopted 1992)

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is...
It depends on the definition of 'alone'."
-- President Clinton, testifying before a federal grand jury

Real people are tired of devious lawyers twisting plain English so it no longer has meaning. Constitutions are, by necessity, written documents. If hollowed out and perverted into oblivion by power-hungry politicians and by corrupt judges legislating from the bench, we will lose the great bastion of our liberty. Lawmakers will morph into lawbreakers. Our children will curse the political cowardice that meekly traded our heritage of limited government for new and improved chains.

HB 1325 is just such an assault on freedom and common sense. Two crystal-clear constitutional clauses ban legislative creation of "any" state debt. Statists now want to "interpret" the word "any" to mean "some."

TABOR says, for those (local) governments which can borrow, voter approval is required. In fact, section 1 of TABOR reinforces the bar to state debt remained, saying "Other limits on district…debt may be weakened only by future voter approval," in this case, by a constitutional amendment.

Even under a socialist shyster's view that a constitution is just an intellectual exercise in evasion, and debt means only general obligation debt secured by the full faith and credit of the state, TABOR still mandates voter approval. It's preposterous to say borrowing money is not a "direct or indirect…other financial obligation whatsoever."

Our new governor said he supported TABOR. But that was before he was elected. Both he and legislators took an oath recently to uphold the Colorado constitution. Were their fingers crossed? Their oath to the "everliving God" was NOT "to do only what lawyers tell me I can get away with," nor "unless my constituents value something else more," nor "except roads." There was no asterisk, footnote, or other exception. Politicians supporting HB 1325 well deserve the recent Mind of Colorado confidence rating; only 7.1% of the public respects you.

Despite billions of dollars in the bank, despite record state surpluses, despite a landslide vote last fall reaffirming limits on state government growth (the second consecutive defeat of government expansion "for roads"), here is another sneak attack on our right to vote, another assault on our wallets. The fiscal note example projects a $434 million cost for $1 BILLION in debt, but there is no hard dollar debt limit at all! Next year, schools will want to borrow; then parks, prisons, higher education, etc. Balanced state budgets? Ended. Fiscal discipline? Trashed. The will of the people? Screw 'em. The right to vote? Don't make me laugh.

$434 million in interest is stolen from future budgets. This gravy for the greedy comes from IOUs, once called GARVEYS, now TRANS. Don't you just love those cute acronyms bureaucrats design to make us feel warm and cuddly about sliding into statism?

Of course, Colorado does not control federal appropriations. If the feds cut future payments, or other changes occur, we can't pay it back. What then? Tax-and-spend liberals say, "No problem! We'll buy insurance." That costs us a lot more. Then the commissions to sell the bonds -- millions more again. Then the higher interest rate from the uncertainty they will be paid back. Then the cost mark-up triggered by this spending binge? Ouch!

How do Harvard lawyers say debt is not debt? They lie! HB 1325 says the state will borrow the money, but won't promise to pay it back! Of course, if it's not borrowed funds, it becomes revenue, subject to TABOR revenue limits and, ta-da, voter approval.

What is the rationale for illegally putting us into debt without even a vote? In a word, impatience. Buy now, pay later. Put it on the credit card. Big spenders can point to visible progress to help them at the next election, and to hell with the next generation. If this billion dollar trial balloon sneaks by, next time it can be $20 billion for 50 years.

It's a matter of principle--do you believe in the rule of law or not? Sound familiar? That was also the impeachment issue. "Ignore violations of law and get away with it, so long as the polls last. The ends justify the means." When greedy government officials break the rules, which of our tattered constitutional rights is safe? How do we stop them from disregarding freedom of religion and the right to a jury trial? Can legislators circumvent term limits by changing their names in court, then running again? Is there any limit to what political prostitutes will do to get other people's money?

Defenders of deficit spending say this debt is different because it's secured by only one source of state revenue -- federal gas funds. So what? We still have to pay it back (in the real world). Are school bonds not debt if secured only by property taxes?

Even if impatience prevails, there are other ways to accelerate road repair (a problem, remember, created by years of the politicians' neglect). First, our congressional delegation may try to get us the next five years' federal gas tax funding early, saving all those loan costs. Second, under TABOR, the state can pledge some of its billions in reserves to pay back the money. But if we have the money now, why borrow it? Third, set priorities! (Dream on!)

Debt is inherently inflexible, much more so than TABOR, which was criticized on that very point. (Yet the same liberals are voting for HB 1325.) Debt blocks a response to changed conditions. "Steal from the future to avoid hard choices today." Repayment depends on speculation as to how much gas tax money we get from the federal government. If a recession comes, if Congress diverts the funds, someone gets burned.

Candidate Bill Owens said he would cut taxes AND build roads; he never said the price was giving up our right to vote. To back Bigger Government, the Democrats are saving Bill's bacon, even though debt restricts future discretionary spending just as much as permanent tax cuts. Republican robots are doing it because "Conform" is their mantra. A plague on both your houses.

The bumper sticker that jokes, "We're spending our children's inheritance" should not be enacted as public policy. The Founding Fathers sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for posterity. That's us. The politicians now say we can live on a credit card instead of a balanced budget. Don't believe them.

Douglas Bruce helped author and pass the 1992 TABOR Amendment -- the Taxpayers' Bill Of Rights.

The Colorado Freedom