Support the TABOR bill at the Capitol

This week I’ve written about some loopy laws being pushed in St. Paul this session: one which would erect a costly regulatory apparatus to govern who could buy, sell, or use paint in Minnesota, and another which would mean that homeowners will need to be licensed or get a licensed contractor to change a light switch in their house. These bills show why, as I argue in my new Policy Briefing, “Counteracting Regulatory Burdens,” we need state policymakers to enact a Pay-as-You-Go provision whereby new regulatory requirements or costs must be offset by eliminating old ones and adopt Sunset Provisions for state regulations.

But it isn’t all bad up at the Capitol. In another new Policy Briefing titled “Protect Minnesota’s
,” I argue that our state’s policymakers should enact a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to protect its citizens from spendthrift politicians. This bill would limit the growth in state government spending to the rate of population growth plus the inflation rate.

A bill — HF 2549 — authored by Reps. Niska (R); Knudsen (R); Harder (R); Fogelman (R); Bakeberg (R); Anderson, P. E. (R); Jacob (R); Zeleznikar (R); Robbins (R); Engen (R); Hudson (R); Scott (R); and Schultz (R) – would put a constitutional amendment enshrining TABOR on the ballot this November.

Their proposal differs from mine. They would use the Consumer Price Index for Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington rather than the national rate. I favor the latter because forecasts for that are already part of Minnesota Management & Budget’s budgeting process. They would also use, not forecasts for population growth and inflation, but the numbers observed “for the previous two calendar years.” Population forecasting over a four year time horizon is not, I think, so difficult that we could not use forecasts from the Demographer.

But these are minor quibbles. Minnesota needs some version of TABOR and this version would work. The legislative odds are against it this session, but hopefully it will be back and this proves a first step.