Judge gives green light to TABOR lawsuit

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DENVER — A coalition of Colorado progressives are celebrating a federal judge’s ruling Monday that will allow a lawsuit challenging the state’s controversial Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to move forward.

Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, had been asking U.S. District Judge William Martinez to throw out the suit, brought by a coalition of plaintiffs, on procedural grounds, arguing that the plaintiffs didn’t have legal standing to sue the state.

The court, in Suthers’s view, is “not forum for rehashing political arguments” over TABOR, which voters approved in 1992 and has since divided liberals and conservatives — increasingly, as the recession has slowed revenues coming into Colorado’s coffers — over the state government’s ability to tax.

In a 73-page ruling issued Monday, Martinez disagreed.

“The court holds that the plaintiffs who are current members of the Colorado General Assembly have standing to bring this action.”

Thirteen of the 33 plaintiffs are current Colorado lawmakers, and many others have held office previously.

 
Attorney David Skaggs, himself a former congressman, is representing the plaintiffs.
 
“We now look forward to having our day in court to show why TABOR violates the nation’s most fundamental principles and hopefully to move us closer to restoring representative democracy in Colorado,” said Skaggs.
 
Skaggs and Mike Feeley, another attorney representing the plaintiffs, are both working on the case pro bono.
 
“TABOR lets the Legislature off the hook,” said Feeley, who also served as a state lawmaker, in a press release. “I served after TABOR and know how it gives too many legislators an excuse to avoid making the  tough decisions essential to resolving difficult and complex issues like the budget crisis.”
 
Conservatives have long defended TABOR and its main tenet that lawmakers cannot raise taxes without a vote of the people.
 
The case will now proceed to trial, although a date has not yet been set.
 

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