May 12

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Colorado Supreme Courtroom in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center

Nagel Photography | Shutterstock.com

Over the last 25 years, the Colorado courts have consistently legislated from the bench to weaken the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), two prominent advocacy groups committed to limited government assert. A recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling is one among many that “weakened taxpayer’s rights,” they argue.

Voters approved TABOR on Nov. 3, 1992, which then became part of the state constitution after the governor issued a proclamation on Jan. 14, 1993.

TABOR requires voter approval of most tax and debt increases. It also requires each government to reserve a percentage of non-debt-service spending (an amount that has fluctuated) for emergency reserves. It states that TABOR “shall reasonably restrain most of the growth of government. All provisions are self-executing and severable and supersede conflicting state constitutional, state statutory, charter, or other state or local provisions.” Continue reading

May 04

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

Lawmakers and conservatives in states across the country are growingly concerned that the push for donor disclosure will harm privacy rights. (Photo:JGI/Jamie Grill Blend Images/Newscom)

Conservatives in states across the country say that pushes to pass laws requiring nonprofits to report their donors’ private information threaten First Amendment rights.

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents with concerns over their rights to privacy, and possible harassment by organizations or individuals, or even their employers, if their donation histories are made public,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark Lepak, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in an email.

At least a dozen states have considered such donor disclosure legislation this year, but none has been successful, according to the State Policy Network, a nonprofit organization that supports independent think tanks around the nation.

“Since Jan. 1, 16 states have considered laws that would require causes and groups like The Heritage Foundation to report the names and addresses of their supporters to state government,” Tracie Sharp, president and CEO of the State Policy Network, said in an email to The Daily Signal.

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May 03

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

POLITICSNEWS

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

Lawmakers and conservatives in states across the country are growingly concerned that the push for donor disclosure will harm privacy rights. (Photo:JGI/Jamie Grill Blend Images/Newscom)

Conservatives in states across the country say that pushes to pass laws requiring nonprofits to report their donors’ private information threaten First Amendment rights.

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents with concerns over their rights to privacy, and possible harassment by organizations or individuals, or even their employers, if their donation histories are made public,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark Lepak, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in an email.

At least a dozen states have considered such donor disclosure legislation this year, but none has been successful, according to the State Policy Network, a nonprofit organization that supports independent think tanks around the nation.

“Since Jan. 1, 16 states have considered laws that would require causes and groups like The Heritage Foundation to report the names and addresses of their supporters to state government,” Tracie Sharp, president and CEO of the State Policy Network, said in an email to The Daily Signal.

Heritage, a leading conservative think tank, is the parent organization of The Daily Signal, its multimedia news operation.

None of these donor disclosure initiatives has passed so far, Starlee Coleman, senior policy adviser at the State Policy Network, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

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May 01

When a Tax Increase Isn’t a New Tax

When a Tax Increase Isn’t a New Tax

High court rules incidental, minimal tax revenue increase doesn’t violate TABOR

Pernell v. People
What might have been a precedent-setting decision in Colorado criminal case law instead became a ruling on harmless error, as the Colorado Supreme Court determined.

According to the Colorado Supreme Court, legislation that causes an incidental and de minimis increase in tax revenue does not amount to a “new tax” or “tax policy change” under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and consequently doesn’t require voter approval.

The decision issued April 23 in TABOR Foundation v. Regional Transportation District settles a 2013 lawsuit against RTD, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and Colorado Department of Revenue that claimed House Bill 13-1272 violated TABOR because it resulted in a revenue increase without voter consent. The legislature passed the bill to realign sales taxes levied by RTD and SCFD with the state sales tax. Although the districts and state share a taxable base tangible personal property — the taxes levied had diverged over the years due to various differing exemptions.

House Bill 1272 removed exemptions from the districts’ taxes on sales of cigarettes, direct-mail advertising materials, candy, soft drinks, and nonessential food containers. Its passage resulted in a projected tax revenue increase of 0.6 percent for the districts, which amounted to less than 1 percent of SCFD’s budget and one thousandth of RTD’s budget. The TABOR Foundation sued the districts, claiming the removal of exemptions constituted a “new tax” or “tax policy change” because they resulted in the districts taxing things they had not before.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, and upheld the districts’ analysis of House Bill 1272’s purpose to simplify tax collections and ease administrative confusions associated with the exemption divergences. The court concluded the revenue increase was incidental and de minimis, so it did not violate TABOR.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the April 30, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.

May 01

Colorado’s Supreme Court has once again weakened taxpayers’ rights

Colorado’s Supreme Court has once again weakened taxpayers’ rights

© Getty

The Colorado Supreme Court has issued another in a long string of rulings weakening the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights — the part of the Colorado constitution called “TABOR.”

The voters adopted TABOR in 1992 to protect Colorado’s fiscal and economic health. TABOR guarantees the rights of citizens to vote on certain hikes in government spending, taxes, and debt. Unfortunately, each anti-TABOR court decision has become precedent for further anti-TABOR decisions. The Colorado courts are bootstrapping themselves toward ultimate destruction of Coloradans’ right to keep their state fiscally safe.

In TABOR Foundation v. Regional Transportation District, citizens argued that a law standardizing sales tax exemptions should have been presented to the voters. The citizens pointed out that the measure was not revenue-neutral. Rather, it was what TABOR calls a “tax revenue gain.”

 

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