Jan 11

TABOR may put roadblock in front of I-70 fix

Editorials

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

Posted:   01/10/2015

A simulation of what the cap would like like over Interstate 70 through the Swansea neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Department of

A simulation of what the cap would like like over Interstate 70 through the Swansea neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation)

Thanks to constraints of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the funding for the reconstruction of Interstate 70 through north Denver has fallen apart, outgoing state transportation director Don Hunt told us the other day.

The state is expected to give back at least $137 million to Coloradans for fiscal year 2015-16 in the form of a TABOR rebate, and for complicated reasons that rebate will seriously impact transportation and capital construction funds.

It is further evidence that even in these heady economic times, TABOR is proving to have destructive impacts on basic government services.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_27289664/tabor-may-put-roadblock-front-i-70-fix

 

Jan 09

Gregory Iwan: Another Tabor dividend

This week’s abysmal pothole experience on U.S. 36 points up yet again why we must get rid of TABOR. The funny thing is, with more toll roads and toll lanes in our near future, even a Rolls Royce or Land Rover is not immune to extreme Third-World kinds of road hazards.

When will the moneyed gentry realize that they are in “it,” too, with the rest of us? Everyone’s fate is the same.

Repeal TABOR, before al Qaeda decides to adopt Colorado as a vacation home. They’d feel right at home, with our mountains and rotten roads. And guns everywhere. But that’s for another day.

Gregory Iwan

Longmont

http://www.dailycamera.com/letters/ci_27284871/gregory-iwan-another-tabor-dividend

 

 

Dec 25

EDITORIAL: Colorado tax ‘refunds’ will cost taxpayers dearly

The insult to injury of the TABOR Amendment is back: Colorado must refund hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to state residents, despite the widespread public needs

BY THE AURORA SENTINEL

As hopeless as it might seem, Colorado must revisit the argument over its ludicrous state tax “refunds” that hurt the state and all of us much more than any individual actually benefits.

If you’re new to these parts, Colorado suffers under a unwieldy and complicated set of restrictive budget laws dubbed the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

The measure was a product of Colorado’s notorious anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce and misguided state voters who approved the state constitutional amendment in 1992. As it was sold to voters, the measure capped state taxes by requiring that tax increases be approved by voters. But the convoluted and labyrinthine measure does so much more. It not only caps taxes, but it caps spending. Part of the amendment sets government services at a baseline, so that when budgets decrease in lean tax years, a new, lower baseline is set, creating the so-called, dreaded ratchet-down effect.

Continue reading

Dec 25

TABOR rears its ugly head

 City Sage

Maybe not, because it’s TABOR time. When Colorado tax revenues increase too rapidly, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and its arcane provisions authored by Douglas Bruce kick in, forcing the state to refund “surplus” tax revenues or ask voters for permission to retain them.

The state constitutional amendment may have seemed simple, transparent and commonsensical to the voters who approved it in 1992, but it isn’t. Sold as a measure that took away the power to raise taxes from spendthrift elected officials, the measure was far more complex.

Bruce wrote every word of the lengthy amendment, explicitly designed to shrink, hobble and defund Colorado governments at every level.

TABOR limits government revenue increases to an annual figure determined by population growth plus inflation. That may sound reasonable, but Bruce’s simplistic formula doesn’t work. It has forced the state to make continual service cuts and defer infrastructure maintenance and construction, because the world Bruce envisioned bears little resemblance to the world we live in.

In the real world, tax revenues may vary sharply during any multi-year period. If revenues are flat for years before rebounding sharply, too bad! The revenue cap starts from zero every fiscal year. The 2005 passage of Referendum C mitigated TABOR’s effects for a few years, and the recession made it irrelevant for a few more. But now it’s back with a vengeance.

Continue reading

Dec 08

TABOR must die for Colorado to survive

Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate columnist

Editor: Another uninformed idiot who wants to raise taxes so you can pay more.
Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate columnist

I couldn’t help but notice that on this page last week CU economist Barry Poulson made numerous false claims about the “benefits” of TABOR refunds. That’s what conservatives do when the facts don’t support their doctrine. They … well, um, in the interest of not name-calling a fellow academic, I’ll just say that they tend to stretch the truth. A lot.

Poulson says that, if TABOR funds are returned to taxpayers in Colorado, you and I will enjoy between $50 and $100 refunds. Per year. And he says that will stimulate the state’s economy.

Fifty bucks? Seriously? Because I live in the real world, I personally know dozens of people who live at or below the federal poverty level, and to say that $50 a year would make a difference in their lives is an insult. They spend that on cigarettes every payday. That’s one tank of gas a year. A year!

Here’s the problem: Like most professional academics, Poulson doesn’t live in the same world you and I live in. His world is theoretical, and there are certain theories that are sacrosanct. Never mind that dribble-down economics (the poor are grateful for the crumbs of the rich) has been discredited in real life so often that even most conservatives have abandoned it. Poulson hangs onto it because (1) he’s paid to do that and (2) he hasn’t read a book on economics since 1997.

 

Continue reading

Dec 06

Don’t condescend on TABOR refund, Democrats

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

TABOR1 pictureDemocrats in the legislature are flirting with the idea of a ballot measure asking voters if the state can keep a likely refund dictated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Good for them. The state needs the money to backfill both K-12 and higher education, and for transportation.

But Democrats might want to refine their pitch. According to incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, “people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

Intentionally or not, her statement oozes the sort of condescension that voters detest.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_27061668/dont-condescend-tabor-refund-democrats

 

Nov 27

California’s experience makes economic, political benefits of Colorado’s TABOR clear

Rapid growth in the Colorado economy will increase state revenue in excess of the TABOR limit. Colorado’s TABOR constitutional amendment limits the growth of state revenue to the sum of population growth plus inflation; surplus revenue above that limit must be refunded to taxpayers.

Legislative analysts estimate $137 million in TABOR refunds for the next fiscal year. In the following year the state must offset surplus revenue with a temporary income tax rate reduction estimated at $234 million. Given the range of error in these estimates, the average Colorado household should expect to get somewhere between $50 and $100 per year in TABOR refunds.

Continue reading

Nov 09

Look to Ref C’s success for Colorado’s fiscal future

 

Editorials

Look to Ref C’s success for Colorado’s fiscal future

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

The late state  Sen.  Ken Gordon carries a sign at the Colorado Capitol showing his support for Referendums C and D  in September 2005. Voters passed the

The late state Sen. Ken Gordon carries a sign at the Colorado Capitol showing his support for Referendums C and D in September 2005. Voters passed the measure in November of that year. (Karl Gehring, Denver Post file)

The cyclically punitive nature of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights has put Colorado in a bind more than once.

Just last week, revenue estimates showed the state will exceed TABOR revenue caps in 2015-16 by $137 million and will have to issue refunds, which will mostly go to low-income residents as tax credits.

The “excess” is supposed to continue through 2016-17, and perhaps longer, with an additional $239 million forecast to be collected and refunded.

Yet, the state faces significant needs in education and transportation as it emerges from a recession and tries to recover from budget cuts.

And that is the bitter reality of TABOR, as true today as it was a decade ago: Its restraints hamper the state’s ability to have its budget rebound from a recession.

Now that elections are behind us, it’s time for state leaders to replicate the bipartisan will mustered in 2005 to craft a timeout from constitutional spending caps and put a measure before voters.

Referendum C was the product of intense negotiations between then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and the legislature, which was controlled by Democrats. It wasn’t easy to come to agreement on all the finer points, particularly when it came to the sunset provision of Ref C, which asked voters to let the state keep revenues above the TABOR cap.

But by the end of the 2005 legislative session, lawmakers and the governor had agreed on a plan — and after a hard-fought campaign, voters were persuaded to approve it as well.

Ref C is the template that should be followed today.

This would not be a “tax increase” any more than Ref C was, despite what critics will undoubtedly charge.

The measure would simply ask voters whether the state could keep revenues above the TABOR limit that it is already collecting.

Of course, passage of such a measure would end the prospect of refunds, but we think — we hope — voters would understand the need for fresh revenues to backfill recession-era cuts to K-12 funding.

And it should also be evident, given the recent hullabaloo over how the state has had to resort to private companies to help pay for major transportation projects such as U.S. 36, that highway funding is in seriously short supply.

Coloradans, to their credit, are pragmatists when it comes to government spending. The Ref C model, in which a broad coalition pitched specific spending needs, appealed to that sensible nature once and should be pursued again.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

 

http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_26892088/look-ref-cs-success-colorados-fiscal-future

Oct 20

GUEST COLUMN: Ballot Question 1B: A dishonest tax increase

By Jeff CrankPublished: October 20, 2014

El Paso County Ballot question 1B is nothing more than a dishonest attempt to fool voters. Its shameful deception rises to the level of the misleading term-limits language of a few years ago. If you remember the term limits language that implied that a “yes” vote “limited” terms when it actually extended them, then question 1B this year might ring a bell. 1B imposes a tax of $92.40 per year on the average household in El Paso County for the next 20 years and beyond. That is a minimum tax increase of $1,848 per property and likely much higher. However, you wouldn’t know these facts just by reading the ballot language.

Pretty harsh to say it is deceptive, but the facts leave little doubt. First, the language calls the tax a “fee.” Why? If they called it a tax, the Colorado Constitution would require the ballot language to start out by saying “shall taxes be increased by $39,275,650 for 2016 and each year after for 20 years.” By cleverly calling the tax a fee, they can now start the language with “Are you in favor of funding emergency needs caused by flooding.” It was worded this way to enhance the ability to get it passed but it is nothing more than a way to trick you into believing that the money coming out of your pocket is a fee and not a tax. After all, it is on your property tax bill.

The sleight of hand continues. Rather than being honest about how much you’re going to pay each year, they broke down the amount per month. They could have said that it would cost the average homeowner $1,848 over the next 20 years. Instead, they broke down the amount by month – to $7.70 per month. Why not break it down to the day, hour or second? By the way, if you do the math, it is just over a penny per hour tax increase.

Question 1B also creates a government bureaucracy and then exempts it from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights provisions of the Colorado Constitution.

In other words, it creates a bureaucracy and then allows that bureaucracy to vote to extend the tax (that they call a fee) without going to the citizens for a vote of the people.

As Mayor Steve Bach, who strongly opposes 1B, stated, “the new $92.40 stormwater fee is about the same amount the average residential property owner now pays for all city services combined.” That’s right, you’ll pay as much property tax for stormwater as you do for police, fire, snow removal, street repair, parks, arts, etc. Imagine this new unaccountable bureaucracy getting as much property tax as the city of Colorado Springs, never having to face an election and having the ability to increase ?the tax at their whim and without voter approval.

If this tax increase of $785 million over 20 years weren’t offensive enough, the audacity of the language should convince any citizen to vote “no.” The drafters of the language trying to pull the wool over voters eyes by calling a tax a “fee”; reducing the yearly tax amount to make it appear smaller; and thumbing their nose at the voters by taking away the right to vote on tax increases make this as deceptive and misleading as any ballot language we’ve ever seen.

Our stormwater problem is real and it should be addressed, but Question 1B is not the answer. I hope you’ll join Mayor Bach, myself and many other community leaders in voting “no.”

Jeff Crank is a talk show host on AM 740 KVOR and the president of Aegis Strategic, LLC.

http://gazette.com/guest-column-ballot-question-1b-a-dishonest-tax-increase/article/1539836