In response to profligate government spending in Arizona-spending that has plunged the state into deficit-advocates of fiscal restraint have called for a Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). This amendment to the Arizona Constitution, which would be enacted by initiative or referendum, would keep the growth of government spending in proportion to increases in inflation and population.
One argument voiced against the proposed amendment is that such fiscal policy should not be made part of the constitution. Instead, it is argued, we should rely on our elected officials to tend responsibly to the state's fiscal health, limiting the state constitution to organic law and refraining from top-down edicts that constrain the flexibility of our representative democracy.
This argument ignores the nature and content of the Arizona Constitution, which is full of limits on the power of elected state and local government officials. A TABOR amendment would fit seamlessly within a state constitution that manifests a healthy skepticism of government with multiple structural limits on its power. Considering that repeated efforts to rein in state spending have proved insufficient, the time is right to add a TABOR amendment to the Arizona Constitution.
The Case for TABOR
Policy arguments for a Taxpayer's Bill of Rights appear more exhaustively elsewhere. According to the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers, state revenue over the past 10 years has increased an average of six percent per year, while spending has increased an average of nine percent per year. Had a TABOR amendment keeping spending increases proportional to inflation and population growth been enacted in 1994, the current $908 million state deficit instead would be a $273 million surplus.