Mar 19

Rebounding economy, boosts tax revenues, triggers TABOR refunds

Colorado is preparing to issue rebates to taxpayers for the first time in nearly 15 years.

The latest economic forecasts released Wednesday indicate the state will exceed its constitutional limit on tax collections by between $70 million and $220 million this fiscal year, triggering refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

How much taxpayers will see when they file their 2015 taxes in April 2016 remains unclear, but the amount is expected to be modest.

The refunds will range from $15 to $89 per taxpayer based on income level, with the lowest-income earners possibly receiving an additional $230 break.

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Mar 10

Lessons from 30 Years of TEL Experience

Yes, you can get involved in your city or state.  TABOR gives citizens the right to vote yes or no on the government increasing your taxes.  To learn more, send an email to

The first tax and expenditure limitation (TEL) was proposed by California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. In the years since then, numerous states have adopted TELs. By studying these laws, we have discovered principles and design concepts for effective tax limitation.

State TELS

In spring 1978, under the leadership of State Rep. David Copeland, the people of Tennessee adopted the first constitutional tax limitation measure in the nation, the work product of a state constitutional convention.

Then came Proposition 13 in California in June 1978. While not itself a TEL (it was primarily a limitation on the growth of property taxes), Prop. 13 was the catalyst that ignited a national tax revolt. Things began to happen quickly across the country:

  • Arizona, under the leadership of then-Senate Majority Leader Sandra Day O’Connor, adopted a TEL referendum in 1978.
  • In November 1978, Michigan adopted the Headlee Amendment, which restricted state spending as a share of personal income.
  • In 1979, California adopted a Prop. 1-type TEL (the Gann Limit) that for the first time limited the growth of state spending by measuring it against inflation and population or per-capita personal income growth, instead of a percentage of state personal income growth, which really tightened the year-over-year control over taxes and government spending.
  • Also in 1979, Washington State adopted a TEL (Initiative 62).
  • In 1980, Missouri adopted the Hancock Amendment, again using a percentage of state personal income growth as the measure.
  • In 1980, Massachusetts’s Prop. 2 ½ drew heavily on the language of California’s Prop. 1 in order to control the growth of local governments.

Lessons Learned

Many other states have since adopted constitutional or statutory controls. But many were not tough enough or sufficiently well enforced or honored to be effective. Circumvention began in earnest in Missouri as the legislature and courts played games with the revenue base and school financing. In California in 1989, wily Assembly Speaker Willie Brown corrupted the Gann Limit formula in a statewide initiative devoted to improving California’s roads and highways. Continue reading

Mar 10

How TABOR works: Tracking the fate of your 2015 refund

If state legislators pass all active tax credit bills, your refund would be at least $18.42 less than originally projected.

(CPR: Megan Arellano)

You’ve probably heard you might get a TABOR refund. If you’re like us, you’re wondering how much that could be. We set out to answer that very question.

What are TABOR refunds?

Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state spending in Colorado is only allowed to increase at the rate of population growth plus inflation.* Any money the state raises above that amount must be returned to taxpayers through a complex set of formulas.

Between a voter-approved TABOR timeout passed in 2005 and the Great Recession, it’s been a decade since residents last received a rebate. But with Colorado’s economy once again booming, analysts project the state will need to start returning money to taxpayers either this fiscal year or next.**

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Mar 04

Littleton voters pass measure restricting city’s urban renewal powers

Littleton voters pass measure restricting city’s urban renewal powers

The storefront of the new location of Crown Trophy in Littleton. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

Littleton will need to go to the voters before employing commonly used urban renewal tactics, like tax increment financing or eminent domain, according to special election results released late Tuesday.

The city in Denver’s southern suburbs became the first Colorado community to place such constraints on a local government’s ability to use the state-sanctioned economic development tools.

Opponents of the measure warned that Littleton would stunt its economic growth potential by making projects in hard-to-revamp areas impossible to complete.

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Mar 02

Rep. Jim Wilson: Battle on over TABOR

Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson

Back in January, I gave you a heads up that a battle was brewing over TABOR – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Well, the battle is on! The Democrats continue to make it clear that they would like to keep the money to spend where they feel it would be best. Republicans are maintaining their position of wanting to give the money back to the taxpayers in accordance with how the people voted in 1992.

The Democrats are seizing every opportunity to demonize TABOR as the reason there is no revenue available to fund state programs. Republicans are quick to point out the fact that the General Fund has increased its expenditures $2.9 billion (with a B!) since 2009, so there must not be a lack of dollars. The battle is beginning to infiltrate committee action in the House.

In my Finance Committee meetings, the Chair (Rep. Court: D- Denver) has unilaterally established a “policy” forcing any bill getting through the Finance Committee to have a three-year sunset clause. I do not believe that sunset clauses are a bad thing. In fact, I try to include a five-year sunset clause in many of my bills. The problem with a three-year sunset is many programs cannot be established and prove themselves (or not) in three years. A three-year sunset will create a surge of “unworkable” laws to hit the Legislature in three years. What could be the cause of the fiscal failure? Voila – TABOR! The regular lectures have reached the point where I usually ask Rep. Court, “Are we are going to get the ‘TABOR Sermon’ today?”

Stay tuned on this one…


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