The Colorado State Capitol building during the final day of the legislative session on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Denver, Colo. (Katie Klann/The Gazette)
It seems like just yesterday to us that Colorado voters adopted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights on the statewide ballot and ensconced it into the state’s constitution. Yet, the groundbreaking policy has been in effect for nearly three decades.

In that time, it has kept state and local government on a diet — and has saved taxpayers untold millions of dollars. And they still love it after all these years, as most credible polls show.

Perhaps more noteworthy: Even some political leaders on the center-left seem to have made their peace with the policy. Our reputedly liberal Democratic governor from Boulder went so far as to laud it just the other day. That’s quite a stride.

Best known by its acronym “TABOR,” it was bitterly opposed by the political establishment — a number of Republicans as well as most Democrats — at the time of its passage in 1992. It is still resented by left-leaning interest groups for its infringement, as they see it, on their ability to lobby for more and bigger government programs. And plenty of elected officials of every stripe continue to chafe at its restraints on their power over the public purse. A federal lawsuit against the constitutional amendment filed by some liberal stakeholders continues to crawl along.

Yet, TABOR’s basic premise has always made perfect sense to the general public. It requires voter approval for any tax hike at any level of government in the state. And it set limits on the rate at which government budgets can grow. Any increase in tax revenue that exceeds the rates of growth plus inflation in a given year have to be returned to taxpayers. Elected leaders can keep the overage if they first ask voters’ permission.

Curbed by unfriendly courts; artfully dodged by policy makers who have figured out clever and disingenuous end runs, TABOR doesn’t have the impact it could have — and never was the bogeyman its detractors made it out to be. Yet, it is still having much of its intended effect.

Which is why Coloradans are now about to receive a tax refund, thanks to TABOR and the wisdom of an earlier generation of voters who first embraced it.

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