Mar 02

Rep. Jim Wilson: Battle on over TABOR

Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson

Back in January, I gave you a heads up that a battle was brewing over TABOR – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Well, the battle is on! The Democrats continue to make it clear that they would like to keep the money to spend where they feel it would be best. Republicans are maintaining their position of wanting to give the money back to the taxpayers in accordance with how the people voted in 1992.

The Democrats are seizing every opportunity to demonize TABOR as the reason there is no revenue available to fund state programs. Republicans are quick to point out the fact that the General Fund has increased its expenditures $2.9 billion (with a B!) since 2009, so there must not be a lack of dollars. The battle is beginning to infiltrate committee action in the House.

In my Finance Committee meetings, the Chair (Rep. Court: D- Denver) has unilaterally established a “policy” forcing any bill getting through the Finance Committee to have a three-year sunset clause. I do not believe that sunset clauses are a bad thing. In fact, I try to include a five-year sunset clause in many of my bills. The problem with a three-year sunset is many programs cannot be established and prove themselves (or not) in three years. A three-year sunset will create a surge of “unworkable” laws to hit the Legislature in three years. What could be the cause of the fiscal failure? Voila – TABOR! The regular lectures have reached the point where I usually ask Rep. Court, “Are we are going to get the ‘TABOR Sermon’ today?”

Stay tuned on this one…


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Feb 13

Millions in marijuana tax revenue to be refunded, unless Colo. Legislature acts

Audio: CPR’s Ben Markus reports on marijuana tax revenue

A caregiver picks out a marijuana bud for a patient at a marijuana dispensary in Denver in a file photo.

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

Colorado voters overwhelmingly passed heavy taxes on marijuana, and the state has collected tens of millions in the first year of legalization.

But all of the taxes raised from pot have to be refunded, unless lawmakers can agree on a solution. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights section of the state Constitution is triggering the refund, putting money for schools and prevention programs at risk.

For now, dispensaries like Colorado Harvest Company in Denver charge 22 percent in taxes for every pre-rolled joint, vaporizer, or brownie.

It’s an expense that customer Jason Swart doesn’t mind paying.

“Just for the convenience of being able to come in, go to a store, and the selection — I think it’s well worth it,” Swart said.

Swart is new to Colorado; he just moved here from Kansas. But he recognizes that marijuana taxes help the state.

“As far as I know it goes to good things, Swart said. “Schools and roads. I know we got a lot of potholes.”

“Orwellian-type of situation”

“Legalize it and tax it” was the mantra of the pot movement in Colorado, and one of the big reasons voters approved of legalization. Now, though, the impending refunds are a bizarre turn of events that have taken many by surprise.

“This is an Orwellian-type of situation,” said Tim Hoover with the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute.

Here’s the issue: the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, requires the state to ask voters to approve any new taxes. When doing so, the state must estimate the money the tax would raise, and estimate the overall tax collections without it.

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Feb 12

Hickenlooper says state needs to spend big to prepare for growth

DENVER, CO - January 15: Colorado governor JohnHickenlooper talks about changes he wants to see happen for the state next year and beyond Thursday, January 15, 2015 at the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver, Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper delivered his fifth State of the State address to bring awareness of Colorado's growth and where the state is heading in the future with developments in education, health and environment. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post) Source: DP Filename: CD16STATEOFSTATE_BL26493x.jpg

Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his remarks to the Economic Club of Colorado on Tuesday with a warning for the state’s business leaders.

A major focus of his second term is preparing for Colorado’s impending growth — with 3 million more residents expected in the next 20 years, he said. The Democrat said Colorado is growing “almost too rapidly” and the growth costs money.

“We’re probably going to have to spend a bunch of money that will take the business community stepping up,” he said, saying industry leaders will need to recognize the need to spend money on roads and infrastructure.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

Feb 11

TABOR, budget and rebates … Oh, my!

My work on the JBC this month consisted of understanding and voting on “supplementals.” These are bills that bring the budget that ends next July in line with actual spending and forecasts for the rest of this fiscal year. The biggest growth in this year is coming from additional case load and costs in Medicaid and overruns in information technology projects.

We move next week onto “figure setting,” which sets the budget for July 2015 through the June 2016 fiscal year. The state of Colorado will spend about $26 billion next year from a combination of taxes, fees and federal dollars. But the work of the JBC isn’t just about numbers. We also are responsible for overseeing the department’s operations and performance. There are just six of us on the JBC, three from each party, and we’re working together very cooperatively this year to solve real problems.

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Feb 09

TABOR debate carries long-term results

Who do you trust to spend your money: You, or the government?

Unfortunately for Coloradans, that’s not a rhetorical question. At issue is the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — and it’s currently under assault.

Enacted by voters in 1992, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is a state constitutional amendment that protects Colorado taxpayers against the runaway spending that is threatening state budgets across the country and has driven many local governments into bankruptcy. It has two central components. First, voters may reject any proposed state tax increase, as they have by huge margins twice in recent years. Second, the state must issue tax refunds when total revenues for any given year outpace inflation and population growth.

That second component is now being threatened. 2015 is projected to be the first year since the 2008-09 recession that taxpayers are likely to be eligible for a refund — a refund of roughly $116 million. The principle supporting this refund is simple: Once government has sufficient funds to cover current operations and nominal growth, any excess revenues should be returned to the people who earned it and paid it in the first place: State taxpayers like you and me.

But a growing number of state politicians and pundits disagree. They argue the limits imposed by the Bill of Rights prevent the government from spending that money on important items. As a result, the argument goes, the state should keep the $116 million to spend on key infrastructure projects and K-12 education, which ostensibly are experiencing budget shortfalls. Continue reading

Feb 05

Forget Income Tax Refunds. Coloradans Might Get a Marijuana Refund! (Paid Out in Money, Not Pot)

Getty – Kevork Djansezian

Americans who are getting a jump on their income taxes may already be looking forward to receiving (and spending) their refund checks. But for those who live in Colorado, another type of rebate may be making its way toward their bank accounts: a “reefer refund”!

According to state law, Denver may be forced to return some of the money collected in recreational marijuana taxes during the first, full year of legal sales. Residents and tourists racked up $50 million in taxation revenue for Colorado in 2012.

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The state constitution contains an amendment referred to as a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR), which was approved by voters almost a quarter-century ago. In addition to requiring all new taxes to receive the go-ahead from Colorado voters, TABOR also compels the state to issue refunds to taxpayers whenever it takes in too much money in revenues. The definition of “too much” is set by a complex formula that has been established under the law.

Since TABOR was passed, residents of the Rocky Mountain State have received these types of refunds six times, with total amounts ranging from about $40 million to over $1 billion.

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Jan 30

The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Colorado’s TABOR law


The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Colorado’s TABOR law

By Mark K. Matthews
The Denver Post

POSTED:   01/12/2015 12:01:00 AM MST

Douglas Bruce, author of the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is pictured in 2005.

Douglas Bruce, author of the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is pictured in 2005.


WASHINGTON — If Colorado politics were like daytime TV, then the state’s controversial TABOR law would be its longest-running soap opera.

Few issues can match the drama — and staying power — of the 1992 measure, which has survived repeated attempts to dismantle its requirement that lawmakers get permission from voters before raising taxes.

Now, though, the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is getting a shot at prime time. As soon as Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the fate of a lawsuit against TABOR.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

Jan 28

Legislative Coffee event kicks off

As the Colorado 2015 Legislative Session moves into full-swing, Morgan County stakeholders will begin discussions with representatives.

Stakeholders started those discussions Monday with the first Legislative Coffee event. Representatives from area businesses, Morgan County Economic Development Corporation, Morgan Community College, Brush Chamber of Commerce, Fort Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and the city of Fort Morgan attended the event Monday at Café Lotus.

The small group met with State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and State Rep. Jon Becker to discuss bills and matters at the state legislative session.

The Legislative Coffee event on Monday followed a less formal format than usual, Becker said.

“Sometimes it’s more formal where people stand up and present, but it’s still early in the session,” Becker said.

The group discussed matters regarding tax on medical marijuana, faster internet services in the eastern plains and Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Continue reading

Jan 24

Colorado House GOP upset after Democrats kill school funding bill

By Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post

POSTED:   01/23/2015

(Denver Post file photo)

A House Republican says he can’t understand why his bill to give more money for education was killed by Democrats even though it had the support of the teachers’ union, school boards and superintendents.

“My bill would have directed unexpected surplus revenue to our schools,” said Rep. Jon Becker of Fort Morgan. “I can’t think of a better investment than our kids’ futures.”

He pointed out there was no opposition Wednesday when he presented House Bill 1058 to the Finance Committee, where it died on a 6-5 party-line vote.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

Jan 21

Another clueless person who thinks we should keep on spending….

Another clueless person who thinks we should keep on spending….

RC Lloyd: Time for repeal of TABOR
Posted: 01/19/2015

As one ventures out to spend the soon-to-arrive Colorado tax refund checks, be certain to thank tax crusader, current Colorado Springs resident and former California lawyer Doug Bruce for his success in passing the TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) amendment to the Colorado Constitution.
However, as your Michelins touch the ever-deteriorating roadways and you’re savoring that Starbuck’s latte, keep in mind how hamstrung state coffers are due to the lack of any rainy day protection written into this misguided piece of legislation. Time for a repeal.
RC Lloyd