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The Most Important Law of the Legislative Session?

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Simply put, Governor Bill Ritter says, a new law that gives Colorado lawmakers more flexibility in how they manage the budget opens the door for “wiser investments with existing resources.” Senate Bill 228, which Ritter signed yesterday morning in a ceremony, does not dismantle the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and “does not raise taxes,” Ritter says (via the Colorado Springs Gazette). That didn’t stop conservatives, like Jon Caldara, the president of the Independence Institute, from attacking the new law as the kind of opening that could lead to a statewide spending spree. Colorado, Caldara points out, has already suspended TABOR and yesterday’s legislation repeals the so-called 1991 Arveschoug-Bird measure that limited growth in the state’s general fund while directing overages to transportation and capital construction. The conservative Face the State blog attacked state Senator John Morse, the bill’s sponsor, with a headline claiming he was on a “crusade for your soul (and wallet).” The Denver Post, meanwhile, describes the legislation as the kind of “landmark” budget reform that supporters see as a first step to prevent Colorado from ending up in the kind of economic straits as California. Carol Hedges, the analyst for the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute who helped craft the bill, says it’s hard to immediately see how the budget might be helped by the new law, according to the Denver Business Journal, which notes the state’s general fund revenue is expected to fall by $700 million from this year.

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