Gunnison Watershed School District readies for a fight
By Aimee Eaton
After more than six years of consideration, a federal judge ruled this week that plaintiffs in a suit challenging the legality of Colorado’s Tax Payer Bill of Rights (TABOR) do not have grounds to sue the state.
For Crested Butte residents this matters because the Gunnison Watershed School District is a plaintiff in the case, and available state funding for schools, hospitals, roads and other social services is closely tied to TABOR restrictions.
“In a nutshell, this lawsuit says TABOR is unconstitutional because it’s not representative government,” said Gunnison Watershed school district superintendent Doug Tredway. “Because of TABOR, Colorado is the only state in the union where our legislators cannot pass tax law. The only way we can pass taxes is through a ballot measure.”
Those measures have almost unilaterally failed.
“Locally we can pass tax measures but at the state level they never pass,” said Tredway. “The state is really on the verge of being in serious financial trouble because we don’t have the ability to manage our own tax system.”
According to Tredway, the goal of the lawsuit has been the repeal of TABOR, and the school district is part of the lawsuit because as a government organization it has been harmed by the legislation. The district has incurred a host of expenses and costs related to having to present funding legislation and needs directly to voters.
U.S. district judge Raymond Moore, who ruled on case, disagreed, stating that it was unclear how TABOR had harmed the plaintiffs and because of this, the lawsuit had no standing.
It is unclear what the next step is for the lawsuit. Judge Moore declared the case closed, but Tredway said it is likely the plaintiffs will appeal the ruling.