Mar 03

Crowder, Thurlow team up to fix TABOR ‘constraint on overdrive’

State Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, and state Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, have introduced a bill to fine tune TABOR.

Two Colorado Republican lawmakers are delivering on their promise from earlier this year to fine-tune TABOR, a 25-year-old constitutional restriction on how much the state can receive — and spend — without triggering tax refunds.

Rep. Dan Thurlow and Sen. Larry Crowder have introduced House Bill 17-1187 that seeks to change the way annual revenue limits set by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights are calculated.

It’s a first step that could allow the state to keep millions of dollars for roads, education and other priorities, starting with an extra $175 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to legislative analysts.

Thurlow, of Grand Junction, and Crowder, of Alamosa, have asked: What’s the use of individual taxpayer refunds amounting to pocket change when, this year alone, lawmakers must close a $500 million gap to balance the budget that begins July 1?

“I believe our party is the party of solutions and this bill is an example of that,” Thurlow said Monday. Continue reading

Mar 03

What is House Bill 1187?

What is House Bill 1187?

HB1187 would allow the government budgets at all levels to grow much larger each year by changing the current growth formula of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  The current automatic increase uses the previous year’s budget and adds the growth in population plus inflation.[1]  Under the existing formula, Colorado’s State budget has grown an average of 4.7 percent a year for the past 25 years that TABOR has been in effect.

The new formula would replace the growth rate with the growth in personal income, averaged over five years.  With that substitution, the TABOR limit would soar.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa County).

 

A fatal flaw in the proposal.

This bill is a very sneaky effort to avoid the constitutional rules altogether.  The rules say that the state constitution cannot be changed by passing a law.  This proposed measure says it can change a foundational definition in the constitution with a new law.  It does not ask simply for the state to keep the excess of taxes collected for some number of years.  It is a permanent change in how each TABOR limit is set.  That’s a fundamental change to the constitution. Continue reading

Jan 01

Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Initiative 1 (1992)

The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), also known as Initiative 1, was on the November 3, 1992 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The famed measure, thought up by Douglas Bruce, requires statewide voter approval of tax increases that exceed an index created by combining inflation and population increases.

 

 

 

 

 

Text of measure

See also: Colorado State Constitution, Article X

The language appeared on the ballot as:[2]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution to require voter approval for certain state and local government tax revenue increases and debt; to restrict property, income, and other taxes; to limit the rate of increase in state and local government spending; to allow additional initiative and referendum elections; and to provide for the mailing of information to registered voters?

Aftermath

Kerr v. Hickenlooper

See also: Kerr v. Hickenlooper

A lawsuit regarding Initiative 1 will likely have far reaching effects for other TABOR laws around the country and direct democracy, in general. A lawsuit was filed with U.S. District Court in Denver, with plaintiffs arguing that the amendment is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed during the week of May 27, 2011, by 34 bipartisan plaintiffs, according to reports.

According to Doug Bruce, author of the citizen initiative, if the lawsuit is successful in its efforts, it could allow lawmakers unlimited power, and could be extremely detrimental to citizen initiative efforts in the state of Colorado. Bruce stated: “This isn’t only attacking Colorado. The consequences of a ruling in their favor would invalidate the Constitution in all 50 states, and would also mean no limits on the federal government. We would have anarchy.”

However, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, David Skaggs, stated that the measure limits state legislators and conflicts with both the state and United States constitutions. Skaggs also argues that other initiatives have been overturned, but that it did not negatively affect the process. Skaggs commented: “Courts won’t reach beyond the narrow question presented. Yes, we got to this issue by initiative”, but the lawsuit targets TABOR and not citizens’ initiatives.

The case’s impact expanded significantly due to the consideration of a Guarantee Clause argument. In 2012, Colorado District Court Judge William J. Martínez ruled in favor of allowing the case to proceed. However, Martínez’s ruling noted the history of seeing the Guarantee Clause as not justiciable or capable of judicial resolution, and said, “the Court determines that it cannot summarily conclude that Plaintiffs’ Guarantee Clause claim is per se non-justiciable”

The defense appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. In March 2014, the court ruled that the case was justiciable. The court further denied a petition for rehearing en banc in July 2014. Some consider the case likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

https://ballotpedia.org/Colorado_Taxpayer_Bill_of_Rights,_Initiative_1_(1992)

Oct 27

The State Taxathon Public unions are behind tax increase initiatives from coast to coast.

The State Taxathon

Public unions are behind tax increase initiatives from coast to coast.

PHOTO: ISTOCK

In California unions are seeking to extend a 2012 ballot referendum that raised taxes on individuals making more than $250,000 and bumped the top rate on income above $1 million to 13.3% from 10.3%. Proposition 55 would postpone the income surtax’s scheduled sunset by 12 years to 2030. Ergo, another “temporary” tax increase becomes permanent.

A mere 1% of California earners account for about half of the state’s income-tax revenues and a third of the budget. Since 2012 California’s coffers have grown by nearly 40% thanks to large capital gains. About two-thirds of the new revenues have gone to schools, but for the teachers union it’s never enough.

 A recent Field Poll shows voters favoring the tax extension by two to one. Opponents have raised $3,000. Labor groups and hospitals—Medicaid would get a dedicated share of the revenues—muzzled the opposition by vilifying donors to the antitax campaign in 2012 and dumping $60 million into this year’s initiative.

Maine is following California’s leftward lead with an initiative to impose a three-percentage-point surcharge on household income exceeding $200,000 per year—regardless of whether the taxpayer files as an individual or jointly. If enacted, Maine would lay claim to the second highest top individual rate in the country at 10.15% after California’s 13.3%

 

Continue reading

Oct 21

Pot, minimum wage and plastic bags: Your guide to 2016’s hot ballot measures

More than 160 ballot measures going before voters this year
pot1
’Legalize it’: On Election Day, voters in different states get a say on recreational marijuana; hiking the minimum wage; and more.
On Nov. 8, Americans won’t just get their say on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: voters will weigh in on a slew of ballot measures concerning everything from the minimum wage to marijuana.

More than 160 statewide ballot measures are certified to go before voters this year in 35 states, according to Ballotpedia. While that’s down from some past years, the issues remain the kinds that stir voters up. Here’s a look at some hot-button measures facing Americans around the country on Election Day.

Minimum wage: There are measures to boost the minimum wage on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. And in a referendum that may prove to be the bane of South Dakota teenagers, voters in that state will decide whether the minimum wage should drop by $1 an hour for workers under the age of 18. Continue reading

Oct 07

Young: Raise the bar? Not if we can’t be rid of TABOR

I’ve got a four-word reason not to vote for Proposition 71, the Nov. 8 ballot issue that would make it harder to amend the Colorado Constitution.

Four words: Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.

Now, understand: I agree with the sentiment behind Proposition 71. It’s just that voters should fear the likely result: a lifetime of TABOR.

I say this while admitting that proponents of 71 are right. The state constitution is too easy to amend. And TABOR is prima facie evidence of that.

Based on how TABOR has impacted Colorado, the last thing voters should want to do — particularly the voters of Fort Collins — is change the constitution in a way that makes it harder to amend TABOR out of it.

No, don’t make it harder to revoke bad fiscal policy. Give smart fiscal policy an even chance to win.

TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, is not just bad policy, it’s the worst policy Colorado voters ever conjured. Its spending limits impede lawmakers from making the most fundamental policy decisions, whether they involve highways or schools, water or the environment.

When bad economic times hit, state services get clobbered. When good times come around, those services are prevented from reclaiming what ground they lost. TABOR is to blame.

TABOR causes the state to do crazy things like ask voters for permission to spend money they’ve authorized. Right now Fort Collins voters are being asked that very thing. Continue reading

Aug 06

Hate Big Government? Crush New Smoking Taxes

Hate Big Government? Crush New Smoking Taxes.

POSTED BY ON JUL 12, 2016 IN BLOG

Hate Big Government? Crush New Smoking Taxes.

 Aren’t you glad we live in a state where, due to TABOR, politicians have to ask us before soaking hardworking taxpayers? I like to call it “consensual taxation.”

In 2013, Coloradans overwhelmingly defeated Amendment 66, which would have been a $1 billion annual tax increase. The politicians wanted this tax increase, but the voters said no by a margin of 66-34. Thanks to TABOR, they had to ask us. We said politely declined.

This November, we will have the opportunity to vote on Amendment 69, which would create a single-payer health plan in Colorado at the cost of a new 10% payroll tax. It’s been widely panned, even by the Democrats, including US Senator Michael Bennet.

 

Continue reading

Jul 23

Blake: “Decline to sign” campaign is first of its kind

Colorado has never seen an advertising and public relations campaign like it: Trying to stop an initiative before it gets to the ballot.

votebuttonSMALLThe campaign urging citizens to “think before you ink” is being sponsored by advocacy groups financed by the oil and gas industry. It is aimed at a couple of pending proposals that would severely restrict drilling in Colorado.

Proposition 75 would grant local governments the power to regulate, even effectively ban, drilling for oil and gas. Prop 78 would require that new oil and gas wells be at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures — a restriction that the industry claims would ban new wells from 90 percent of the land in the state.

We’re not likely to find out whether the campaign has worked or not until petitions are turned in by the Aug. 8 deadline.

But the campaign is already being blamed in part for the failure of an unrelated anti-TABOR initiative which was withdrawn this week by its sponsors. It would have permitted the state government to keep revenues collected above the spending limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights for the next 10 years. Instead of returning the money to taxpayers, the state would spend it on public education, transportation and mental health.

Backers of Prop 117 were “unable to raise the large amount of money necessary to gather enough signatures to qualify” for the ballot, Lisa Weil of Great Education Colorado told the Denver Business Journal.

Maria Garcia Berry, a political consultant who had been helping Weil and others promote 117, told me its death was “collateral damage” inflicted by the oil and gas industry’s campaign urging citizens to look more closely at the anti-drilling initiatives now circulating.

But that’s not all, she said. The oil and gas industry has effectively driven up the cost of collecting signatures by “conflicting out” just about every major signature gathering company in Colorado — Black Diamond Outreach, Kennedy Enterprises, Taylor Petition Management, to name a few. They’ve been reserved by the drilling industry or being used to circulate other initiatives it likes, such as Prop 96, which would make it more difficult to pass a state constitutional amendment.

Someone at Pac/West Communications, an Oregon-based firm retained by the oil and gas industry, dreamed up the idea of running TV ads urging citizens to think twice before signing a petition. If successful, it would reduce general election expenses considerably but since the industry has spent so many millions on PR already, it might hardly notice.

“Professional signature gatherers are hired guns who get paid when you sign their petition,” begins the latest TV spot. “Every signature is money in their pocket, which explains the effort to ban oil and natural gas development here.” Continue reading

Jul 20

Colorado Priorities shelves ballot initiative to curb Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Organizers have shelved a ballot initiative to loosen the grip of Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill or Rights on the state’s ability to fundschools, transportation, mental health and senior services.

The executive committee of the Colorado Priorities campaign suspended the effort Monday night. The measure would have needed the signatures of at last 98,492 registered voters by Aug. 8 to get on the November ballot.

TABOR sets a revenue cap based on population and inflation. Everything over that must be refunded to taxpayers under the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1992. Initiative 117would have allowed the state to keep that revenue.

 

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