David Harsanyi

Across the country, Americans are suffering at the hands of out-of-control state governments and spending.

But guess what? There exists an immunization that helps relieve some of the pain associated with that sort of fiscal calamity.

The remedy already is working wonders in Colorado. So, one might ask, why, rather than exporting the treatment, are local Colorado officials in the process of killing it?

Colorado has enjoyed more than a decade of above-average economic growth. The state, with its low taxes and highly educated work force, is cited regularly as one of the best places to do business and live. Colorado ranks high in income and consumption levels and, not surprisingly, also has managed to avoid some of the recession's brute force.

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Colorado's dynamic economy relies on a multitude of factors, but none of those factors happens to be the presence of governors or legislators. Sensible governance is made compulsory by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and other state spending limits, which keep government lean and responsible yet also allow the state the flexibility to ask voters for more funding.

Now, as you can imagine, politicians abhor few things more than engaging in the unpleasant task of justifying their spending to the riffraff. Even more distasteful is dealing with bothersome spending limits that retard elected officials' transcendent power to help you out.

Accordingly, the bellyaching over spending caps in Colorado is ceaseless. Only a shyster politician would argue that allowing a budget to grow 6 percent over the previous year's total (and more, if you count transportation and capital projects) is unfair. Few Colorado families or businesses, I am relatively sure, enjoy that kind of latitude.

Yet this week -- only days after California voters overwhelmingly rejected their state's bid at economic anarchy -- Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation to eliminate Colorado's spending limit, which henceforth will be referred to as "Californiacation."

For those Coloradans who still see usefulness in fiscal prudence, John Morse, a Democratic state senator from Colorado Springs, believes in you. "In the late 1400s, very few people believed the Earth was round," he explained. "By the early 1500s, we knew what was going on."

Colorado voters, treated like the dimwitted Middle Age peasantry of the 1400s, need to get their heads on straight and build a bridge to the 16th century. I agree. Morse's fight for unaccountable and disconnected government screams 1500.

Once spending limits are gone, Californiacation can begin. Having already raised property taxes -- with the help of friendly courts -- Colorado's patrons will have extra billions at their disposal. And now that the Democratic-controlled Legislature has unleashed its collective imagination and started referring to taxes as "fees," billions more will head to Denver.

Gov. Ritter has said that he would like to revisit the Taxpayer Bill of Rights question in 2011 -- bravely, a year after he runs for a second term.

What could be done with TABOR? Well, it could be eliminated. And when Morse and Ritter -- and other demagogues of doom -- push Colorado toward an Age of Enlightenment, they won't tell citizens this: Colorado governments spent almost $26 billion for the 4.3 million living in the state in 2000. And in 2008, they spent nearly $42 billion for 4.7 million people. Imagine what might have occurred without TABOR. Or just imagine California today.

In truth, TABOR forces elected officials to justify every penny they spend and constrains them to rational growth. In many ways, it cleans up government by stripping bureaucrats of power -- and nothing, I assume, is more bothersome to them.

More immediately, TABOR has helped insulate the average Colorado taxpayer from the disasters of overspending and mitigate a recessionary economy.

Other states serious about protecting taxpayers should take notice.

While they still can.


David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.