Mar 10

Federal Appeals Court rules Colorado Anti-TABOR lawsuit can proceed

Published March 7, 2014 | By CTBC Director

A three-judge panel on the Federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a lawsuit challenging the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment to the Colorado Constitution may proceed, and remanded the case to federal district court to proceed to trial on the merits.

Byron White Courthouse 10th Circuit Denver

The appeals court ruling addressed only the issue of whether the plaintiffs (33 “educators” and legislators who are “mostly Democrats” with a few token “Republicans”) have legal standing to sue, and whether the lawsuit is barred by the “political question” doctrine, and explicitly did not address the merits (or lack thereof; the case has been widely derided as frivolous and groundless) of the lawsuit:

The merits of the case are not before us. We express no view on the substantive issues and intend none. We consider solely standing and the political question doctrine.  (Ruling at 6)

Establishing standing to sue requires, first and foremost, that the plaintiff “has suffered a concrete and particular injury in fact that is either actual or imminent” – which the court affirmed for the plaintiffs who are current or former legislators, since

Legislator-plaintiffs contend they have been injured because they are denied the authority to legislate with respect to tax and spending increases. (Ruling at 21)

The more significant element of the appeals court ruling addresses the “political question” doctrine – the issue of whether the claims brought by the lawsuit may properly be addressed by the courts at all.

 As a threshold matter, we must decide if the political question doctrine categorically precludesGuarantee Clause challenges against state constitutional amendments adopted by popular vote. (Ruling at 29)

The appeals court concluded that guiding U.S. Supreme Court precedent Continue reading

Dec 01

Should TABOR be dismantled? No

Voters have right to decide state, local taxes

By John Suthers

Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative
Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative’s defeat and the victory of Proposition AA (a tax on recreational marijuana sales). (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press)

Former Congressman David Skaggs and former state Sen. Mike Feeley have filed a lawsuit contending that it’s a violation of your federal constitutional rights to allow you to vote on whether or not to raise your state and local taxes. Because taxpayers and not legislators have the final say on tax increases, they think we have “too much democracy” in Colorado.

I’m confident the courts will ultimately conclude otherwise.

Reasonable people can and do disagree about the wisdom of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). And many Coloradans, including myself, believe it’s far too easy to amend our state constitution. But there’s nothing unconstitutional about allowing voters to decide important issues, including whether to raise their taxes.

The plaintiffs claim that letting citizens decide whether taxes are raised violates the “Guarantee Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. In the Guarantee Clause, the United States guarantees each state will have a “republican form of government.” It was intended by our founders to suppress any lingering monarchical tendencies in the original states. They wanted to ensure that Virginians couldn’t make George Washington or Thomas Jefferson a king of their commonwealth, even if they wanted to. The constitutional provision was intended to preserve power to the people, not take it from them. Continue reading

Dec 01

Should TABOR be dismantled? Yes

Take back the power to set state fiscal policy

By David Skaggs and Mike Feeley

Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative
Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative’s defeat and the victory of Proposition AA (a tax on recreational marijuana sales). (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press)

When we were new members of the Colorado legislature in the 1980s and ’90s, we hoped colleagues would see the merit in bills we introduced and, of course, approve them. It didn’t take long to realize that fellow legislators would be more skeptical about our ideas — as we would be of theirs.

Our proposals — often drawn from conversations with constituents — were subject to scrutiny in committee hearings, floor debates and endless conversations with all manner of interested parties.

That challenging and sometimes tedious process demonstrated then, as it does now, the wisdom of the Founders in drafting a constitution that requires every state to have a “republican form of government,” a representative democracy.

The Founders recognized that the public interest is best served when complex and controversial issues receive careful review by representatives who have the time, commitment and expertise to hold hearings, take testimony, examine evidence, debate their differences and work out necessary compromises. That is the way a diverse society with often conflicting interests can resolve difficult issues responsibly and respectfully. Continue reading

Oct 25

TABOR group sues 2 special districts — RTD, SCFD — over new tax

By Monte Whaley

The Denver Post

The nonprofit TABOR Foundation is suing to stop the Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District from collecting sales tax on food, beverages, cigarettes, advertising materials and food containers.

The foundation filed a request for preliminary injunction Thursday in Jefferson County District Court, asking that the districts be blocked from collecting the tax starting Jan. 1, as allowed by a new state law.

House Bill 1272 lifted exemptions on items the districts could tax. Previously, sales of food, beverages, cigarettes, advertising materials and food containers were off limits to RTD and SCFD.

The tax is expected to net $2.7 million for RTD and $270,000 for SCFD next year, according to the complaint.

The TABOR Foundation — formed to protect and enforce the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a state constitutional amendment that requires a vote of the people to increase taxes — says the legislature violated TABOR by enacting a new tax without voter approval.

“The legislature seems to have forgotten there is a part of the constitution called TABOR, and we are hoping to remind them that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights does exist,” said Jim Manley, of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which filed the complaint on behalf of the foundation.

Manley said voters should get to decide whether RTD and SCFD can expand their tax base. “All we are asking is for the voters to weigh in on this.”

Supporters say the tax is not new, but merely an expansion of the till the districts are allowed to dip into. It also simplifies the tax-collection process and makes the accounting more accurate, RTD said.

“We see it as simply aligning the tax base of the special district with the state tax base,” SCFD executive director Peg Long said.

Read more: TABOR group sues 2 special districts — RTD, SCFD — over new tax – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24379305/tabor-group-sues-2-special-districts-rtd-scfd#ixzz2imeezy4O 
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse
Follow us: @Denverpost on Twitter | Denverpost on Facebook

Jun 30

THE US SUPREME COURT’S PROPOSITION 8 RULING, AND TABOR

Today, in its ruling on California’s Proposition 8, the Supreme Court ruled that citizens’ groups do not have standing to defend a law passed by referendum or initiative in federal court, should the state decline to do so.  By making this reasoning the basis for its decision, the Court has potentially invited grave implications for Colorado and its Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Currently, TABOR is the subject of a lawsuit arguing that it violates the US Constitution’s provisions that each state have a republican form of government:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

ARTICLE IV, SECTION 4

The plaintiffs, which include five current Democratic state legislators, argue that, by removing the legislature’s ability to raise taxes without approval by the people, has violated that clause.  That case is now in federal court, in front of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

That assertion has been challenged on a number of counts.  First, the federal courts have ruled that clause – the “Guarantee Clause” to be non-justiciable, leaving it instead as an issue for the political branches.  Second, there is every reason to believe that the founders used the word “republican” to describe even systems of direct democracy. Continue reading

Mar 23

Taxation Without Representation

F Line

F Line (Photo credit: paulswansen)

Introduced earlier this week was the following, Colorado House Bill HB 13-1272: RTD & SCFD Sales & Use Tax Base Same As State. This tax increase without voter approval likely got lost in all of the Colorado anti-gun legislation that had moved to the front of the news cycle.

The proposed legislation is set to add more tax revenue to the Regional Transportation District (RTD) here in Denver as well as the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). The bill is sponsored in the Colorado House by House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst. In the Colorado Senate the sponsor is Pat Steadman of Colorado Senate District 31.

The description of the bill is as follows:

Currently, some items that are exempt from the state sales and use tax are subject to the scientific and cultural facilities’ (SCFD) and regional transportation district’s (RTD) sales and use tax, and vice versa. For example, RTD and SCFD may tax the sales of low emitting motor vehicles, but the state may not. The state may tax the sale of candy and soft drinks, but RTD and SCFD may not.

The bill changes RTD and SCFD’s sales and use tax bases to be the same as the state’s sales and use tax base by eliminating some of the districts’ exemptions and creating other new exemptions for them.

In Colorado, we have the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), so any tax increase in the state must be approved by voters before implementation. Approved in 1992 the constitutional amendment is designed to restrain growth in the Colorado State government. TABOR applies to all levels of government in Colorado including, state government, cities, counties, school districts and special districts. The legislation is the most restrictive tax and spending limitation in the country. Continue reading

Nov 17

Col Springs Sen. John Morse will be next Senate President and zealous foe of TABOR

November 8th, 2012, 6:11 pm ·

As of Thursday, lawmakers from Colorado Springs hold three of the four top leadership positions in the state Senate and House of Representatives.

The outspoken Democratic Sen. John Morse was elected by the Senate Democratic caucus to be the chamber’s next president.

In the House GOP elections, Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Mark Waller was named the new House minority leader, following in the footsteps of outgoing Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who was House majority leader for two years. Continue reading

Nov 17

Colorado Voters’ Power of the Purse

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Current and former lawmakers are taking the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to court for a second opinion.

Workers install a large U.S. flag and a Colorado State Seal on the west side of the Capitol in Denver on Friday, January 7, 2011, as part of the decoration for the inauguration of Governor-elect John Hickenlooper.

Many states have provisions designed to limit the amount of taxes their legislatures can raise, but only Colorado has gone so far as to pass the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Known as TABOR, Colorado’s unique constellation of confusing laws prevents the state legislature from raising taxes without public approval and caps the amount the government can spend in a way that’s designed to shrink it over time. All levels of government—city, county, and state—are limited in what they can spend by a complicated formula, which basically indexes revenue to inflation plus population growth. If the tax revenues the state and local governments collect in any given year are higher than the cap, which happens in good economic times or when there is an influx of new residents, states and cities are required by law to refund taxpayers. Over the years, more than 80 cities have passed local referendums to relieve their governments from some of the burdens of TABOR. Last week, Denver voters passed, by a margin of 74 percent to 26 percent, a referendum that allows the city to keep the surplus money it has already collected and spend it. The referendum they voted for is called “de-Brucing,” named after the law’s anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce. (On the state level, a de-Brucing referendum passed in 2005.) The city argued that without de-Brucing, it would no longer be able to provide basic city services; it hadn’t trained a new firefighter or police officer class in four years. Continue reading