Jul 16

Protecting Taxpayers with Supermajority Requirements

Protecting Taxpayers with Supermajority Requirements

Cartoon workingman reluctantly paying taxes. (Photo: AdobeStock/PPD/Adiano)

CARTOON WORKINGMAN RELUCTANTLY PAYING TAXES. (PHOTO: ADOBESTOCK/PPD/ADIANO)

The best budget rule in the United States is Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Known as TABOR, this provision in the state’s constitution says revenues can’t grow faster than population plus inflation. Any revenue greater than that amount must be returned to taxpayers.

Combined with the state’s requirement for a balanced budget, this means Colorado has a de facto spending cap (similar to what exists in Switzerland and Hong Kong).

The second-best budget rule is probably a requirement that tax increases can’t be imposed without a supermajority vote by the legislature.

The underlying theory is very simple. It won’t be easy for politicians to increase the burden of government spending if they can’t also raise taxes. Particularly since states generally have some form of rule requiring a balanced budget.

Basically a version of “Starve the Beast.”

Anyhow, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, 14 states have some type of supermajority requirements.

And more states are considering this reform.

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Jul 16

High Court decision could send internet sales taxes to Durango

High Court decision could send internet sales taxes to Durango

New revenue would help, but not solve, city’s long-term budget deficit
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on internet sales could bring the city of Durango additional sales tax revenue. But unanswered questions surround the new revenue.

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Jun 28

The big winner tonight is… TABOR!

The big winner tonight is… TABOR!  

mmJon Caldara  AUTHOR

As I’m watching the numbers roll in tonight from Colorado’s primary elections, I just had to tell you what the news might not pick up on, even if they noticed it. The big winner in tonight’s Republican Primary is our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

You might recall last year several weak-kneed Republicans in the state legislature worked with 100% of the Democrats to blow a massive hole in TABOR. Senate Bill 267 labeled a giant tax hike as a “fee” and a $2 billion debt package as “certificates of participation” as a way to avoid going to the voters as required by TABOR. The end result is that while Trump gave you an income tax cut, these Republicans took it all away, without even asking.

Tonight Republican voters made very clear – when you betray us, when you betray our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, you will NOT go any higher in political office.

Three of the anemic Republicans who voted for this grand betrayal had the gall to run for higher office. State Senator Owen Hill wanted to become a U.S. Congressman, State Representative Polly Lawrence wanted to become Colorado’s State Treasurer, and State Representative Dan Thurlow wanted to graduate to State Senator.

All three lost in their primaries tonight.

Republicans should take note. You mess with our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, you go no higher in elected office (at least as a Republican).

Join our TABOR Yes coalition right now and help politicians remember why we love TABOR!

Think Freedom,

Jon

The big winner tonight is… TABOR!

Jun 14

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Should Be a Role Model for the Nation

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Should Be a Role Model for the Nation

A balanced budget requirement is neither necessary nor sufficient for good fiscal policy.

If you want proof for that assertion, check out states such as IllinoisCalifornia, and New Jersey. They all have provisions to limit red ink, yet there is more spending (and more debt) every year. There are also anti-deficit rules in nations such as GreeceFrance, and Italyand those countries are not exactly paragons of fiscal discipline.

The real gold standard for good fiscal policy is my Golden Rule. And the best way to make sure government doesn’t grow faster than the private sector is to have a constitutional rule limiting the growth of government.

That’s why I’m a big fan of the “debt brake” in Switzerland’s constitution and Article 107 in Hong Kong’s constitution.

And it’s also why the 49 other states, assuming they want an effective fiscal rule, should look at Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) as a role model.

Colorado’s Independence Institute has a very informative study on how TABOR works and the degree to which it has been effective. Here’s a good description of the system.

Colorado voters adopted The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. TABOR allows government spending to grow each year at the rate of inflation-plus-population. Government can increase faster whenever voters consent. Likewise, tax rates can be increased whenever voters consent. …The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires that excess government revenues be refunded to taxpayers, unless taxpayers vote to let the government keep the revenue.

And here are the headline results.

Cumulatively, TABOR refunds have been over $800 per Coloradan, or $3,200 for a family of four. …If Colorado government had continued growing at the same high rate (8.56% compound annual rate) as in 1983-92, the average Coloradan would have paid an additional $442 taxes in 2012. The cumulative two-decade savings per Coloradan are $6,173—or more than $24,000 for a family of four.

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Jun 12

Your TABOR Foundation is suing the State of Colorado

The TABOR Foundation is suing the State of Colorado over the bed tax termed a “Hospital Provider” charge, which was imposed without voter approval in strict violation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  Our lawsuit had to be substantially amended when Senate Bill 17- 267 further flaunted the constitution by increasing the tax limit by $400+ million, defining the hospital welfare program as an off-the-books government business, issuing $2 billion in debt and much else – all without any regard to the requirements in TABOR.

In late March, we learned that our attorneys at Mountain States Legal Foundation had to withdraw.  From our outside observation point, some internal reorganization appears to have been the reason.  From everything that I have seen and heard, neither the TABOR Foundation nor the other three Plaintiffs contributed to the difficult situation.

In early April, Judge Buchanan gave us 60 days to find replacement counsel.

This email is a happy announcement that the TABOR Foundation met that deadline to recruit new attorneys and the hand-off is just about complete.  Yesterday, the TABOR Foundation appeared at a new Hearing as ordered by Judge Buchanan.  With us were the outgoing attorneys and participating by telephone were our new attorneys.  One of the other Plaintiffs, Scott Rankin, also attended.  The Court approved the substitution.  We have pulled together another very strong team so the outlook is positive.  Our new legal representation is by Cause of Action Institute, with Lee Steven and James Valvo stepping into the lead roles.  Our Colorado-licensed attorney is Michael Francisco, who while working in the Colorado Attorney General’s office helped to write the defense of TABOR in Kerr vs. Hickenlooper.

Now that the legal activity may move forward, look for more communications about developments no later than the fall…..

Penn R. Pfiffner
Chairman

Jun 07

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Jennifer Schubert-Akin and Amy Oliver Cooke
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The latest Census Bureau data released earlier this year shows that Colorado’s population has grown by nearly two-thirds since 1992, one of the fastest increases in the country. 

If you are part of the more than two million new residents who have arrived over this time, there are a few things you should know: Avoid I-70 on Sundays. We are Coloradans, not Coloradoans. And the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is responsible for much of the state’s economic success, which likely drew you here in the first place.

Between 1992 and 2016, median household income in Colorado grew by 30 percent, adjusted for inflation. This growth was more than double the national rate over the same period. Only Minnesota and North Dakota grew by more than 30 percent over this timeframe. Colorado gained $20 billion in adjusted gross income over these years — again, one of the biggest increases in the nation. 

While many other states have struggled with stagnant incomes over this period, what’s set Colorado apart? Its Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, passed in 1992, which requires state and local governments to ask voters for permission before raising taxes or debt. 

TABOR helped end years of economic stagnation and laid the groundwork for the state’s future success by keeping resources in the hands of Colorado residents who could put them to their highest valued use and checking overzealous government spending. 

TABOR has protected pocketbooks and state solvency from legislators who believe they know how to spend your money better than you. Its requirement that excess revenues must be refunded to taxpayers has also resulted in more than $2 billion being returned to the private economy to be spent at local businesses or saved for retirement.  

 

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Jun 07

Colorado Supreme Court Issues 2nd Anti-TABOR Decision in Less than a Month—Showing Why We Need Reform!

Colorado Supreme Court Issues 2nd Anti-TABOR Decision in Less than a Month—Showing Why We Need Reform!

The Colorado Supreme Court has continued its demolition campaign against the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) with a new decision further restricting the people’s right to vote on tax increases. This latest decision comes less than a month after the court held the people have no right to vote on a law that re-adjusted sales tax exemptions in a manner that increased revenue.

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May 22

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

DENVER — Whether you’ve lived in Colorado for a short time, or your entire life, you’ve probably heard about what’s known as TABOR: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Promoted by Republican lawmaker Douglas Bruce, voters in Colorado passed it back in 1992.  Under the TABOR amendment, taxes can’t be raised without voter approval. That includes the state sales tax and property taxes.

“It ensures that government cannot grow beyond what the people want it to do,” said Michael Fields of the conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity.

Fields argues TABOR leads to smart spending with an existing budget, prevents government from getting out of control and gives people of Colorado the power to decide when it’s appropriate to raise taxes.

“I think you make the case to the people,” Fields said. “If you want to invest in something more, then go make the case to the people – convince them that they need more revenue and that’ll pass.”

But there’s another side to TABOR.

“It’s not something good to have on our books. It’s actually hindered our ability as a state to do many things,” said TABOR opponent Amie Baca-Oehlert, of the Colorado Education Association.

She says she feels TABOR is a roadblock for lawmakers that prevents them from making responsible spending decisions in places where it is needed most, like Colorado’s schools.

“That just doesn’t seem right in a state with such a fast-growing economy,” she said.

But Colorado needs money to fix our ailing roads and bridges. So a push is underway to convince voters to approve a sales tax hike this November.  Educators are also pushing a tax increase to help public schools after a 2013 $1 billion proposed tax increase to pay for school funding was rejected by voters.

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an Aspen grocery bag surcharge was not a tax and thus did not fall under TABOR – the second successful challenge in recent months.

But what’s next? For the moment TABOR is here to stay. In order for it to be reversed completely – we as Coloradans would have vote to change it.