Judge Dismisses Long-Running Lawsuit Against TABOR

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed in 2011 against Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill Of Rights.

Voters passed the constitutional amendment in 1992, which among other provisions, requires that voters approve all tax hikes across state and local government. The plaintiffs -- including former and elected officials, school officials and others -- argue that this requirement was unconstitutional because it strips legislators' ability to tax and spend.

“In our view, it’s unconstitutional [because] the founders were very clear in setting up a constitutional architecture in which most governmental power was to be exercised through representative institutions, not by direct democracy,” former Democratic U.S. Rep. David Skaggs, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told CPR News in 2016.

But in his order released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore said the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the suit.

"With respect to the individual plaintiffs, plaintiffs make no effort to discuss, analyze, or even ruminate on how the elected officials, educators, and citizens have standing," Moore wrote.

Skaggs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit stems from elected officials' ongoing frustration with the amendment, which its author, Colorado Springs resident Douglas Bruce, says is the most restrictive tax limitation measure in the country. Apart from its requirement that voters approve all tax increases, TABOR also limits how quickly the state revenue can grow.

But legislators have proven adept at shifting spending to sidestep TABOR spending limits over the years; earlier Thursday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers announced a deal that will reclassify a $528 million fund called the hospital provider fee. As a result, Democrats say more money will be available for education and other priorities.