Towns and Cities Should Use Their Stimulus Windfalls to Cut Taxes
States can’t do it, but there’s nothing stopping local governments from issuing refunds.
By Judge Glock
Sept. 14, 2021 12:54 pm ET
President Biden speaks during at an event on his tour touting the American Rescue Plan Act in Columbus, Ohio, March 23. PHOTO: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS
Since the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March, state policy makers have fiercely debated how to spend nearly $200 billion in stimulus funds. Few Americans, however, have heard plans for the $130 billion that went to cities and counties.
Despite concerns during the pandemic that the economic downturn would bankrupt local governments, we now know that they don’t need this windfall. Local governments actually saw an increase in tax revenue in 2020, thanks to growing property taxes, and they are looking at a bumper tax year in 2021. States should push these cities and counties to return the stimulus money to taxpayers by allowing citizens to vote on any new spending.
The stimulus legislation forbade states to use the money to cut taxes. It was silent on local government tax cuts, but did say those funds should be used for the relief of households and for spurring local economies. Nothing would accomplish these tasks better than cutting property and sales taxes, the two biggest sources of local tax revenue.
Not only is stimulus unnecessary for most local governments, it was distributed nonsensically. The act gave money to counties and small cities based solely on their population and to large cities based on an antiquated formula from the 1970s that benefits bluer cities in the Northeast and Midwest.
To continue reading this story from the Wall Street Journal, please click (HERE):
It seems like just yesterday to us that Colorado voters adopted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights on the statewide ballot and ensconced it into the state’s constitution. Yet, the groundbreaking policy has been in effect for nearly three decades.
In that time, it has kept state and local government on a diet — and has saved taxpayers untold millions of dollars. And they still love it after all these years, as most credible polls show.
Perhaps more noteworthy: Even some political leaders on the center-left seem to have made their peace with the policy. Our reputedly liberal Democratic governor from Boulder went so far as to laud it just the other day. That’s quite a stride.
Best known by its acronym “TABOR,” it was bitterly opposed by the political establishment — a number of Republicans as well as most Democrats — at the time of its passage in 1992. It is still resented by left-leaning interest groups for its infringement, as they see it, on their ability to lobby for more and bigger government programs. And plenty of elected officials of every stripe continue to chafe at its restraints on their power over the public purse. A federal lawsuit against the constitutional amendment filed by some liberal stakeholders continues to crawl along.
Yet, TABOR’s basic premise has always made perfect sense to the general public. It requires voter approval for any tax hike at any level of government in the state. And it set limits on the rate at which government budgets can grow. Any increase in tax revenue that exceeds the rates of growth plus inflation in a given year have to be returned to taxpayers. Elected leaders can keep the overage if they first ask voters’ permission.
Click (HERE) to continue reading this story about TABOR:
One great, though lesser-known benefit provided in the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is the local ballot issue notice. This guide is sent by mail at least 30-days before the election to all households with one or more registered voters.
The TABOR ballot issue notice includes content and details about upcoming local ballot measures which increase taxes, add debt, or suspend government revenue limits. It includes a section where registered electors have the opportunity to submit FOR or AGAINST comments, up to 500 words each.
You should know that there are two types of TABOR ballot issue notices. One notice is for the statewide elections and commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.” The notice discussed here is for elections held by local governments such as a city, town, school district, or special taxing district. You could potentially get more than one of these notices in the mail.
Several years back, it was discovered that out that of some 300 local tax issues throughout the state during a ballot year, only 15 had the taxpayer’s voice printed in a ballot issue notice. That’s only 5 percent! You can make a big difference and amplify your voice by being an author of the next ballot issue notice where you live. Considering that you reach thousands of voters, being able to submit comments in the TABOR notice costs almost nothing and takes relatively little time & energy.
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Gov. Jared Polis and Progressive Democrat majorities at the Ssate Capitol have spent the past three years ignoring clearly-expressed voices of Colorado voters on tax and economic issues. In fact, Progressive Democrats’ disregard for many of the same voters who elected them has become so brazen that they seem to be daring voters to hold them accountable.
With commanding majorities of 41-24 in the House of Representatives and 20-15 in the state Senate, it’s understandable that Democrats are developing a sense of invincibility.
However, it remains to be seen if the Democrats’ recent surge — in 2017, they held a 34-31 margin in the House, while Republicans had an 18-17 majority in the Senate — is due to their own popularity or because Donald Trump irritated many Colorado voters.
In 2018, Colorado voters rejected (59%-40%) a tax increase to raise $700 million a year for highways and transportation. In that same election, voters said “no” (55%-45%) to draconian restrictions on oil and gas development across the state. Polis, campaigning for governor, claimed to oppose those severe oil-and-gas restrictions.
To continue reading this story, please click (HERE):
Submitting FOR or AGAINST statements in your local TABOR ballot issue notice
One great though lesser-known benefit provided in the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is the local ballot issue notice. This guide is sent by mail at least 30-days before the election to all households with one or more registered voters.
The TABOR ballot issue notice includes content and details about upcoming ballot issues which increase taxes, add debt, or suspend government revenue limits. It includes a section where registered electors have the opportunity to submit FOR or AGAINST comments, up to 500 words each.
You should know that there are two types of TABOR ballot issue notices. One notice is for the statewide elections and commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.” The other notice is for elections held by local governments such as a town, school district, or special district. You could potentially get more than one of these in the mail.
Several years back, Dennis Polhill challenged the Colorado Union of Taxpayers by pointing out that of some 300 tax issues statewide during a ballot year, only 15 had the taxpayer’s voice printed in a ballot issue notice. That’s only 5 percent! You can make a big difference and amplify your voice by being an author of the next ballot issue notice submittal. May we count on you please to participate? Considering that you reach thousands of voters, being able to submit comments in the TABOR notice costs almost nothing and takes relatively little time & energy.
On Monday, June 14, the Colorado Supreme Court declined to consider the appeal of case brought by the TABOR Foundation, et. al. to stop the blatantly unconstitutional Hospital Provider tax and program. That means the ruling of the lower Court of Appeals is the final say.
The original filing in June 2015 addressed the issue that the new bed tax was required to have voter approval under TABOR, but that the legislature had violated the citizen right. Then in a related development, in 2017 state senator Jerry Sonnenberg revived the dormant senate bill 267 in the last few days of the session, enacting a host of terrible new laws, violating the single-subject rule and among many other bad ideas, opening $400 million/year in new taxation and spending without a TABOR vote. Our case was amended (twice) to incorporate that abomination and we added many items to our request for remedy.
The trial court judge sat on the case for two years, not even scheduling a hearing. Then he ruled against the citizens. We appealed his decision. The appeals panel found that no one had standing to sue, so prohibited the case from moving forward on the merits. “It was as if the judges did not bother to read the written arguments or to care about the substance of the amended lawsuit,” said TABOR Committee chairman Penn Pfiffner. “Their decision ignored all issues brought forward except for the imposition of the bed tax. It was so insufficient, so lacking, as to be amateurish. Unfortunately, the Colorado Supreme Court went along with the foolishness.”
Beyond adding up $400 million each year in new taxation and spending without the required vote of the people, it put the State into debt by $2 billion, which should also have required separate voter approval. Imagine – taxpayers spend $400 million more each year and they don’t have standing! The Court appears to have dropped any attempt to be true to the constitution and to respect that citizens are (supposed to be) in charge of their governments.
Debate over North Carolina’s recently proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights will begin heating up soon
Opponents will likely try to portray Colorado’s experience in a negative light, to serve as a warning
Their major claims, however, are easily debunked
North Carolina legislators recently filed a bill that would enable voters to decide if a Taxpayer Bill of Rights should be added to the state constitution.
The main feature of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights is that it would limit the annual growth rate of the state budget to a rate tied to inflation plus population growth. Other provisions would require voter approval of tax increases and mandate that excess revenue collections be used to bolster the state’s Rainy Day fund and refunded back to taxpayers.
The benefits of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights are many, most notable in that it would make permanent the fiscal restraint that conservative lawmakers have exercised over the last decade. Common-sense restraints on spending can smooth out spending cycles, better prepare the state for economic downturns, and enable tax cuts to make North Carolina more competitive for investment and job growth.
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It’s never a good sign for your family budget when the word “fee” appears 485 times in a bill. Colorado Senate Democrats are using that word to sell a massive tax increase dressed up as an infrastructure plan. Senate Bill 21-260 is nearly 200 pages long, creates four departments of government called “enterprises,” is loaded with big thoughts about “climate justice,” and would cost Colorado taxpayers $5.3 billion.
There is no doubt Colorado needs to upgrade its roads and bridges. You can’t drive in El Paso County without swerving around potholes. Now that the pandemic appears to have crossed a tipping point, wait times are building again to get from Colorado Springs to Denver.
The fact that Colorado legislators are paying attention to our infrastructure problems should be a win. But SB 260 is more about building government than building roads.
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You’ve likely heard about the legislature’s new gas tax proposal, which seeks to raise over $4 billion to “solve” our infrastructure needs. This massive proposal includes new charges at the gas pump, on delivery services like Amazon, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and more. No matter who you are, they have a new charge for you.
We all agree that our roads and bridges need repair, but Coloradans already pay 22 cents per gallon in State taxes, on top of the 18.4 cents we pay in federal taxes. For certain politicians that’s just not enough.
Much of the debate has focused on the questionable legality of the proposal, due to the passage of Proposition 117 just this past November. That requires governments to receive voter approval before enacting these types of new, large “fees.” The unique protections of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, require the legislature to obtain voter approval before raising taxes. But sponsors won’t let that stop them. Instead, they’re calling these new taxes, “fees,”’ so that Colorado voters won’t have a voice in the process. Continue reading →