Feb 25

Stop House Bill 1041 — A Public Information Tax

Assault on Civic Engagement

Stop House Bill 1041 — A Public Information Tax

  The most regressive public policy proposal to come out of the Colorado capitol in years is Senator Kefalas’s “citizens-be-damned” bill to impose significant fees on citizens seeking public information. It is a direct assault on the public’s right to be informed about activities of  their goverment.

This video spoofs the bill’s impact, but it’s not hard to imagine the troublesome realities in your hometown.

Public Information Tax (User Pay) in Coloradoville

Research Fees — The New Tax 

“Research fees” for public records are not authorized by Colorado statute. Most local governments do not currently charge such fees for records review. Bill 1041 mandates a drastic change to begin imposing research fees on citizens unless waived.

The default setting for cash-strapped governments such as school boards, state agencies, fire districts, and clerks’ offices will become “fee-based, user-pay records disclosure,” and waivers will become the exception rather than the rule. The press has written about the controversial bill, but HB1041 is being pushed by lawmakers faster than the public can catch up in order to protest. See recent articles in Colorado Independent,Boulder Weekly, and Colorado Statesman. Continue reading

Feb 16

Report: Colorado’s public worker pension fund not “fiscally sound”

UPDATED:   12/01/2012 12:08:53 AM MST

By Tim Hoover The Denver Post

The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association is one of 21 state pension funds that are not “fiscally sound,” according to a national investment research firm.

The report, from Morningstar Inc., found that 21 states’ aggregate funded ratios were below 70 percent, the threshold which Morningstar considers a system to be “fiscally sound.” The funded ratio was determined by dividing a pension plan’s assets by its liabilities.

PERA has $26 billion in unfunded liabilities. Lawmakers in 2010 passed a bipartisan piece of legislation that raised retirement ages for government workers, reduced annual cost-of-living adjustments and required increased contributions from government employers and their workers.

The Morningstar study said Colorado’s PERA funded ratio for its state division was 57.7 percent, the number it based its “not fiscally sound” determination on. However, some of PERA’s individual divisions were better off.  The Denver Public Schools fund, for example, was funded at 81.5 percent, while the local and judicial divisions were each at 69.3 percent.  Continue reading

Feb 16

GUEST COLUMN: Unfunded liabilities in PERA’s health plan accumulate

May 03, 2012 7:31 PM


This legislative session Colorado HB1250 was introduced to begin addressing an unfunded billion-dollar liability in the Public Employee Retirement Association’s (PERA) retiree health care benefit program. Its own sponsor then killed the bill after it came under a fire storm of hysteria-tinged and false criticisms, fueled by one-sided media coverage.

Colorado taxpayers lost an important opportunity for the Legislature to begin the fundamental reforms required to put PERA on a sustainable fiscal path. Instead PERA will continue to carry huge unfunded liabilities that in the absence of reform will eventually require a taxpayer bailout or PERA retirees being denied their promised benefits.

About a dozen years ago, PERA established a health care program for people who retire before age 65 and no longer are covered by their government employer for health insurance. Local governments, school districts and state government contribute annually. The program is a type of “defined benefit.” In other words, a promise with no cap to the cost.

The PERA health benefit also gives retirees a direct premium subsidy even after they turn 65 and begin using the taxpayer-supplied Medicare.

HB 1250 would have changed the program from an open-ended promise to pay retirees whatever it takes, to a $230 fixed subsidy — the amount they receive today. Additionally, eligibility for PERA’s retiree health insurance would have been restricted to those 65 years of age and under, and thus not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Continue reading

Feb 16



The Colorado Bridge Enterprise is not a TABOR-exempt business. Colo. Const. art. X, § 20(2)(d). The CBE does not qualify as a TABOR-exempt enterprise because it does not function as self-supporting business and because in fiscal year 2011, the CBE received grants from CDOT totaling more than ten percent of its annual revenue. Under either rationale, the CBE did not have enterprise status when it levied the bridge safety surcharge or created $300 million in new debt. Accordingly, both actions required voter approval pursuant to TABOR.

Until such time as Defendants receive voter approval for these actions, Defendants must be enjoined against continued enforcement and maintenance of the bridge safety surcharge and must be enjoined from issuing revenue bonds. Colo. Const. art. X, § 20(4)(a)–(b); Nicholl, 896 P.2d at 866 (“[T]axpayers have standing to seek to enjoin an unlawful expenditure of public funds.”); see also Barber v. Ritter, 170 P.3d 763, 779 (Colo. Ct. App. 2007), aff’d in part, rev’d in part on other grounds, 196 P.3d 238 (Colo. 2008) (quoting Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 180 (1803) (“a law repugnant to the constitution is void”)). Additionally, TABOR requires that all “[r]evenue collected, kept, or spent illegally” be refunded. Colo. Const. art. X, § 20(1).


Feb 10

Carroll: Boulder’s “fee” could sink TABOR

Boulder is poised this year to test whether the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights still has any meaning at the local level. Do voters get to rule on proposed tax hikes or not? Can local officials simply impose a new tax that roughly covers the cost of an existing service, or its improvement, and declare that tax a fee?

Remember, government can raise fees under TABOR without a popular vote. So Boulder is developing a “transportation maintenance fee” to pay for a shortfall in keeping up its streets. It “would be collected on utility bills like the stormwater management fee, “the Daily Camera reports,” and would raise between $2.5 million and $5.6 million.”

Although the city council has endorsed the concept, a final decision will not be made until officials conduct more public outreach and refine the details. Continue reading