Caldara: Cowboy up and repeal of Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
In this file photo, volunteers pile up signs for backers of the 2005 ballot measures that aimed to lift some TABOR restrictions. Referendum C passed which allowed the state to retain expected refunds for five years and reset the TABOR base.
By JON CALDARA | Columnist for The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: June 28, 2019 at 2:14 pm
Come on you taxpayer-hating, consent-loathing, voter-fearing pantywaists.
Cowboy up and put a full repeal of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights on the ballot. You know you want to. So just do it.
I’m talking to you in the Colorado Legislature who’ve been calling tax increases “fees” because you don’t trust the people who elected you to vote on their own taxes. You who want another “TABOR time out” to nibble away consent and jack up spending limits permanently.
You’ve always hated TABOR because you hate asking for permission to raise taxes. You hate asking to raise debt. You hate asking to keep excess tax revenue above the rate of population growth and inflation.
You’ve used every conceivable loophole the courts have pried open for you to keep what would have been refunded to working families.
And now you never want to have to ask again.
TABOR tussle: Colorado Supreme Court hears case on whether fees are taxes
Jun 25, 2019
The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in downtown Denver is the home of the Colorado Supreme Court, the state Court of Appeals and the office of the state attorney general.
The National Federation of Independent Business said its state Supreme Court case has exposed licensing fees for what they are: Taxes.
And as taxes, they should be covered by the state constitutional Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, meaning the government can’t raise them without a vote of the people.
Want to repeal TABOR? We do too, but here’s some realistic advice
We’ve always thought a repeal of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights would be prudent. We now know, thanks to a Colorado Supreme Court ruling, that it’s possible; all that remains to be known is if it’s plausible.
Common lore and a dismal record of voter approval for tax increases would indicate that voters in fact like TABOR. When asked to raise taxes, as required under TABOR, voters have said no, consistently.
This summer, the conversation is going to heat up around TABOR, especially given that taxpayer refunds are in the forecast. We have some advice for how opponents of the rigid and restrictive amendment should frame the conversation.
First, we are no longer convinced that the state needs more revenue for the general fund. The state’s economy is booming, and thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, revenue from state income tax filings has spiked in Colorado.
How much more revenue are we talking about?
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An effort to abolish TABOR, Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is moving forward. The Colorado State Supreme Court has ruled a repeal question can be put before voters in 2020 if enough signatures are gathered.
In a few short words, the man who wrote the law and got it passed back in 1992 said, “when that happens, which it won’t, call me.”
When asked what would happen if it did happen, Doug Bruce, former Colorado lawmaker responded, “You’re asking me to speculate on a proposal that’s never going to happen.”
Colorado taxpayers possibly headed for both TABOR refund and tax cut
Coloradans are inching closer to their first TABOR tax refunds in years, according to updated state revenue forecasts released Wednesday.
In fact, state collections have been so strong that taxpayers are likely to get both a sales tax refund and a state income tax cut, according to Kate Watkins, the chief economist for Colorado’s Legislative Council.
She and her team estimate TABOR will drop the state’s income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent for both 2019 and 2020. For someone who makes $50,000 a year that’s a savings of $65. The sales tax refund amount is based on a complicated formula, but it ranged from $13 to $41 when the state last gave them out, in 2015.
PERA obligations still threaten Colorado’s future
Colorado is ranked one of the worst states in the US regarding the ability to pay state pensions. In October 2018, Bloomberg’s Danielle Moran tallied the total liabilities and the funded portion that applies to each state’s public employee pension funds, finding that five states had funded less than 50% of the cost needed to pay for their promised state public employee’s pension benefits: Kentucky (33.9%) New Jersey (35.8%) Illinois (38.4%) Connecticut (43.8%) and Colorado was the fifth-worst in the US (47.1%). The exorbitant real debt of PERA obligations is over twice the size of the entire state budget ($32 billion) when using a discount rate that the private sector has to use in calculating its debt obligations.
According to the Foundation of Economic Education, another way to measure the shortfall is to calculate the amount of money that each individual state resident would have to cough up to fully fund the cost of providing state government employees with the retirement benefits promised to them by state politicians. This analysis shows that the 2018 cost of unfunded state government employee pension liabilities per Colorado resident (man, woman, and child) is $9,722 the fifth-highest in the US.
TABOR Committee responds to Court ruling on TABOR repeal
Colorado’s Constitution contains a provision which requires that all matters proposed by ballot initiatives can address only one subject. Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court allowed a ballot measure to proceed that would wipe out the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in its entirety. The Court explicitly threw out a quarter-century of precedent.
The TABOR Committee adamantly condemns the Court’s determination.
“The Court has become dangerously unmoored from the clear meaning of the state constitution,” protested Penn Pfiffner, the Committee’s chairman. The TABOR Committee points out that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights includes not only the frequently-debated provisions for slowing the growth of government, but also for example
- election provisions that call for, among other things, notification of the citizens by any Colorado government of any election,
- requirements for emergency reserves at all levels of government
- a state-wide prohibition on real estate transfer taxes ,
- rules for property tax assessments
- rights of local districts to resist state-imposed mandates.
Committee Board director Rebecca Sopkin observed, “It is strange that the Court found all of this to be one subject. The Court held that all of the above provisions and rights are ‘necessarily and properly connected,’ as though no one of them could exist without the others. We find that to be preposterous.”
In a scathing dissent, Justice Marquez pointed out that using the Court’s logic, a single measure could repeal the entire Colorado Bill of Rights. Petitioners could simply substitute the Bill of Rights for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
The TABOR Committee finds it unsettling that the Colorado Supreme Court appears to take sides. It specifically addresses what seems to be at the heart of issue – that it would be difficult and expensive to repeal the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in a “piecemeal” manner. Does the Court step into the political arena in an attempt to collaborate and cooperate with TABOR opponents? The Court should be impartial rather than act to relieve TABOR opponents of “expense and difficulty.”
The single subject issue arose as a ballot initiative in 1994. TABOR was very much part of the debate. The official summary (Blue Book) specifically noted that if the Single Subject Rule were to be passed, then it would not be possible to repeal TABOR in a single vote. Instead, it would be necessary to address its provisions one at a time. Citizens passed the measure. The Court ignored the will of the people, history, established law, and common sense in its Opinion.
 Colorado Constitution Article 2
 Colorado constitution Article 10, Section 20
 Opinion, page 12