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Taxpayer Bill of Rights: An Analysis of Money Raised Around the Tax Expenditure Limits on State Ballots in 2006

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Abstract:

Advocates of governmental spending limits experienced two major setbacks in 2005 when voters in California rejected a proposal to impose a strict state spending limit and Colorado voters approved a suspension of the state's constitutional spending limit, originally passed in 1992.

These defeats, however, did not stop proponents from moving forward with similar spending-limit initiatives in several states in 2006. The initiatives, known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), were designed to tie state spending to the rate of inflation plus growth in population.

In the end, TABOR backers fared even worse in 2006. Voters rejected the initiatives in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon, and in five other states - Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Oklahoma - successful court challenges by opponents disqualified the measures. In Ohio, backers withdrew the measure from the ballot in exchange for a less sweeping measure passed by the
Legislature.

The 2006 TABOR battles in the nine states attracted $22.6 million in contributions, with proponents raising $10.25 million and opponents raising $12.35 million. Although voters had the last word on Election Day, they had very little to do with the funding of the campaigns leading up to that day. Contributions from residents in the states that faced these ballot measures accounted for less than one percent of the total. Instead, special interests and labor unions provided 94 cents of every dollar raised. Further, more than half of the money raised by the TABOR committees, $11.9 million, came from out-of-state sources. These giving patterns dispel any notion that the 2006 TABOR initiative drives were largely grassroots campaigns.