December 11, 2005

The Fisking of Petro’s Criticisms of TABOR Misses the Biggest Point: Economic Growth

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:27 pm

In an attempt to discredit the Tax Expenditure Limitation (TEL) initiative of Ken Blackwell, Jim Petro’s campaign literature has criticized the tax limitations imposed in a similar measure, Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). In the Petro literature (forwarded courtesy of Right Angle Blog), three of four key claims made relating to Colorado’s economic performance while TABOR has been in effect have been thoroughly debunked: personal income growth, bankruptcies, and unemployment. The fourth, relating to higher education spending, appears either suspect, irrelevant, or both as of this moment (see UPDATE 2 Below).

All of this fisking is important and necessary, but misses a bigger point–Colorado’s economic performance:

  • During the first 5 years after TABOR took effect in 1992, Colorado’s economy outperformed the rest of the country and Ohio by a substantial margin, even after considering population gains.
  • Since then, Colorado’s economy has performed as well as the rest of the country, and Ohio’s hasn’t.

Here is the proof:


Sources: For GDP/GSP data–US Bureau of Economic Analysis (; specific interactive page to obtain data is here); For underlying population data not shown–US Census Bureau ( Also note that there was a comprehensive methodology change in determining GSPs and GDP in 1997 that makes any attempt to compare the 1997 data presented in the top and bottom halves of the table above meaningless.

From 1992-1997, Colorado’s per-capita GSP increase was 28% higher than Ohio’s (3.2% difference divided by 11.9%), and 59% higher than the country’s per-capita GDP increase (5.6% difference divided by 9.5%). Ohio’s per-capita GSP increase also outperformed the country as a whole by 25% (2.4% difference divided by 9.5%), which though less than Colorado’s eye-popper, is still pretty impressive. It is no coincidence that the 1992-1997 time period mostly contains the years when George Voinovich and the Ohio Legislature were fiscally responsible.

From 1997-2004, Colorado’s per-capita GDP increase was the same as the rest of the nation (i.e., there wer no visible negative effects on growth from TABOR after the initial 5-year spurt), while Ohio’s per-capita increase was a whopping 52% lower (5.9% difference divided by 11.4%). It’s no accident that these are the years that include the final year (1998) of the Voinovich Administration, when the governor allowed state spending and taxes to balloon, and the first six years of tax-raising, spend-happy Bob Taft.

The Petro campaign has attempted to paint TABOR as a disaster for Colorado. If what you see above is a “disaster,” I think you’ll agree that Ohio could use one.

Petronians (is that a word?) are also attempting to portray the candidate’s “CAP” plan (Citizens’ Amendment for Prosperity) as superior to Blackwell’s TEL. David Hansen at The Buckeye Institute believes Blackwell’s TEL is far superior to CAP in keeping a lid on future state tax and spending increases. He also believes that CAP will do little to restrain future increases, and, looking at past history, has demonstrated that “Between 1995 and 2005, the CAP proposal would have provided no restraint on state taxes and spending.” . I agree with The Institute that TEL is superior, and the CAP is pap.

UPDATE: It’s hard not to note that Mr. Petro has not (to my knowledge) challenged the tax-and-spend Taft Administration while he has been in office. By 1997, after what were mostly George Voinovich’s good years, Ohio’s per-capita GSP was only about 3%-4% less than the national per-capita GDP. Now it’s almost 8% less, and Mr. Petro has stood around while it all happened.

UPDATE 2: Made 4 the Internet points to a Tax Foundation statement back in March. Item V at that statement, about 2/3 of the way down the page, essentially says “Yes, Colorado is 48th in spending, but the state gets better-than-average results from its university system, and has also done a better-than-average job of keeping higher education affordable.” In my view, they should get a gold star for doing all of this while still being 48th in spending.



  1. Jim Petro crosses the line

    Jim Petro has been on full-out, blast-Blackwell mode lately, mostly calling the TEL Amendment dangerous by comparing it to a similar law passed in Colorado.

    VikingSpirit has ripped into a recent mailer Petro sent out, debunking the candidate’s cla…

    Trackback by Project LOGIC — December 11, 2005 @ 5:52 pm

  2. [...] t the truth that might hurt liberal spending. In either case, as has been deconstructed so eloquently in other places. During the first 5 years after TABOR took effect in 1992, Colorado’s economy outp [...]

    Pingback by » More Good News for Blackwell — April 17, 2006 @ 8:43 am

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