“A new health care tax? Aguilar needs to give it a rest. She’s been pushing this unpopular idea for years. Coloradans need to know who is supporting this trojan horse proposal. The worst of the proposal is that it would exempt future revenues from this new tax from TABOR. A board would then be able to crank up taxes on Coloradans at their own whim.” – Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado.
While Initiative 20 proponents and the ColoradoCareYES campaign are ramping up their campaign to foist a trojan horse tax hike on Coloradans, supporter state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, has been rather quiet.
“A new health care tax? Aguilar needs to give it a rest. She’s been pushing this unpopular idea for years. Coloradans need to know who is supporting this trojan horse proposal. The worstof the proposal is that it would exempt future revenues from this new tax from TABOR. A board would then be able to crank up taxes on Coloradans at their own whim.” – Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado.
A serious effort is underway in Colorado to bypass the effective tax and spending controls imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and permanently increase the size of the state government. TABOR limits how fast state tax revenues can grow by requiring that the state refund taxes collected over the limit to the taxpayers. Therefore, TABOR also, in effect, limits spending. This has kept the burden of state government low and has led to a stronger state economy.
But TABOR is under attack. Elected officials have placed Referendum C on the ballot for this fall, asking Colorado citizens to let the legislature keep (and spend) $3 billion in surplus taxes over TABOR limits instead of refunding those revenues to the taxpayers. As voters ponder this referendum, it is helpful to examine why TABOR was necessary and why it should be retained.
Colorado voters passed TABOR in 1992 to end the undisciplined spending and tax increases of the 1980s, which increased the effective state income tax rate by 15 percent and the gasoline tax by 214 percent. Chart 1 shows how effective TABOR has been in controlling spending. Before TABOR, state spending increased dramatically in relation to taxpayers’ ability to pay, even briefly surpassing the national average. After TABOR, the burden of government declined and Colorado’s competitiveness with the rest of the nation improved.
One of the fundamental reasons to enact revenue and spending limits is to protect taxpayers from constantly rising demands on their pocketbooks. This in turn fosters a better environment for economic growth. Government can still grow, but at a slow and predictable rate. Elected officials must then make honest, conscious decisions about where to direct resources across all state programs.
This means putting an end to the mentality of spending freely in the good years and raising taxes to cover those expenditures in the bad years-something that is as vital from a personal perspective for families trying to provide for their needs as it is from an economic perspective. TABOR has served that purpose well, effectively protecting both Colorado families and the state economy from the ill effects of increasing taxes and government spending.
Why Taxes and Government Spending Are Counterproductive
A new law will allow Colorado voters to know the fiscal impact of a ballot measure before petitions are circulated — a heavily debated effort that seemed doomed in the final hours of the recent legislative session.
The state had already been required to provide voters with cost-impact estimates of ballot measures, prior to an election. But House Bill 1057, which was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday, accelerates that process so that voters will know a proposal’s cost before they are asked to sign a petition.
In addition to fiscal impact estimates appearing in voter Blue Book election guides, the new law requires that estimates of a measure’s impact on government revenues, spending, taxes and fiscal liabilities be summarized on initiative petitions.
“Shouldn’t we know what the fiscal impact is going to be if we are going to propose putting something into the Constitution?” said Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, a bill sponsor.
Court said that fiscal notes are attached to bills before being considered by lawmakers and that the public should be afforded that same information. The Colorado Legislative Council makes those calculations for lawmakers and is also responsible for preparing fiscal impact statements for ballot initiatives.
Just weeks before the Colorado Legislature wrapped up its 2015 session, Gov. John Hickenlooper introduced a proposal that, in a few years, would result in the state having more money to put towards transportation and education, but reduce refunds to taxpayers. Though the proposal failed, Hickenlooper said he’ll continue to push it in coming months.The governor had proposed reclassifying a fee paid by hospitals so that it does not count against the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, limit. TABOR dictates that if the state collects more than a certain amount of tax revenue, it must return excess revenue to citizens. Hickenlooper said other fees don’t count against that limit, and the hospital fee shouldn’t either.
The proposal didn’t get any Republican support in the session that ended last Thursday, in part because lawmakers said they didn’t want to take any TABOR refund money back from taxpayers.
Hickenlooper said he took the idea public after months of working behind the scenes to build momentum for it.
“We got to the point where it didn’t seem likely that we were going to achieve a compromise, so we wanted to let the public have a debate, because there are two sides to the argument,” the governor added.
He said he still believes a compromise is possible, and said he will work on that for next year’s legislative session.
Along with the governor’s tax proposal, in his regular conversation with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner, Hickenlooper said he’s “leaning towards a veto” of two bills that could ban red light cameras and photo speeding enforcement. He also talked about his support for ending a ban on crude oil exports and reflected on Denver’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, which started under his leadership a decade ago.
House Dems pushing fee change to prevent future TABOR refunds | CPR
Democrats in Colorado’s state House are moving forward with an ambitious plan to hold onto hundreds of millions of dollars the state would otherwise have to send back to taxpayers.
Revenues are growing fast enough that the state will soon start sending out tax refunds as required by the Taxpayers Bills of Rights. But budget writers warn those refunds will make it a tough financial situation that much harder. K-12 schools and Medicaid are expected to consume most of the new money Colorado brings in over the next few years, leaving little left over for other areas, like higher education and transportation.
House Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst believes she’s found a way around that squeeze. She wants to reclassify a major fee paid by hospitals in a way that makes it exempt from TABOR limits. That change would lower the total revenue amount covered by TABOR enough keep the state from having to pay refunds for years, giving lawmakers hundreds of millions more dollars to direct to state services.