This week the lawsuit brought by the TABOR Foundation was heard in Denver District Court. Judge Michael Martinez heard the testimony. Attorney Jim Manley from Mountain States Legal Foundation was the principal representative for the Plaintiffs. The Defendants were the Fund itself and the Colorado Transportation Commission. The Attorney General’s office is responsible for defending the state government’s scheme, but contracted with attorney Mark Grueskin to handle the defense.
The lawsuit asks the Colorado court to rule the issuance of debt without prior voter approval unconstitutional, under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). As part of new vehicle charges approved during the Ritter administration, a “bridge safety surcharge” was designated as a fee, not a tax, and never offered as required for voter approval. The Bridge Enterprise was established as a separate government business to repair bridges. The scheme declares that because you might drive over certain bridges you must pay a yearly toll, which is collected when you register your vehicle. The “tolls” received as income allowed the Bridge Enterprise Fund to issue $300 million in bonds without prior voter approval, also required under TABOR. Total debt may eventually be over $1 billion. For more information, see http://tax.i2i.org/files/2013/05/Bridge_Enterprise_Fund.pdf from A Citizen’s Budget for 2013 published by the Independence Institute.
“The critical issue is whether this government can break trust with the citizens of Colorado,” said TABOR Foundation chairman Penn R. Pfiffner. “Bridges need to be built and maintained, but elected and appointed officials can’t ignore the constitution as they pursue those goals. Do it the right way.”
Five witnesses; two heroes.
Two Plaintiff witnesses were Ms. Chris Sammons and Willie Wharton, who both explained that they had to register vehicles and therefore pay the bridge surcharge “fee,” although those specifically identified vehicles never cross a single Bridge Enterprise bridge. Continue reading