Mar 02

Blake: Funding transportation needs adds fuel to the fire

Blake: Funding transportation needs adds fuel to the fire

File photo: Todd Shepherd

File photo: Todd Shepherd

If you are looking for an opportunity to pay higher taxes, this is your year.

Already on Colorado’s 2016 ballot is a single-payer health plan that would boost the state income tax rate to 14.63 percent, highest in the nation.

On its heels comes a planned initiative sponsored by the Colorado Contractors Association, which wants more money to build roads and mass transit projects.

Not by increasing the state gasoline tax, now 22 cents a gallon, but by increasing the state sales tax, now 2.9 percent, by up to three-quarters of a cent.

The final figure has yet to be determined, said Bill Ray, spokesman for the planned initiative. The organizers have until March 25 to propose their final ballot language.

They are working backwards from a goal of raising $500 million to $600 million more per year, which under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has to be listed on the ballot question. They will consider the state’s current revenue stream and then figure out how much higher the tax rate must be to raise the money.

If taxes are a must, user-pay levies are generally considered the fairest. Those who drive their cars over the roads pay their taxes at the pump. Those who don’t drive don’t have to pay.

But earlier polling by the CCA determined that an increase in the gasoline tax would be “roundly rebuffed” by voters, said Ray.

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Jan 21

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Donald E.L. Johnson

Donald E.L. Johnson

Colorado conservatives who want to control spending and taxes in the state should keep a close eye on the bipartisan Building a Better Colorado.

Its mission is pretty clear to anyone who has attended one of its some 20 “summits” that have been held around the state and has read its handouts and website.

Building a Better Colorado is intent on making it easier for politicians to increase spending and raise taxes. That is, it wants to repeal TABOR), which has helped keep spending in check in Colorado since it was passed in the early 1990s.

Further, BABC wants to make it harder to amend the state constitution by requiring a “super majority” of somewhere between a 50 percent to 66 percent majority to amend the constitution. Today, it is as easy to amend the constitution as it is to pass a referendum that creates a new law or set of laws that can be changed by the General Assembly.

 

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Jan 20

Roberts: Colorado can’t balance its budget by ignoring its constitution

“My legislative duty includes necessarily upholding constitutional requirements.” – Senator Ellen Roberts

We’re past the ceremonial days of the 2016 legislature and the only tasks we must complete in a session, based on the state’s constitution, are to pass the budget and the school finance act. Although a short list, these two pieces of legislation require months of noodling, number-crunching and negotiations. This year will be no exception. The budget touches every essential — and many nonessential — governmental services, and will be the biggest challenge we face over the next 120 days.

In their opening speeches, Gov. John Hickenlooper and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, both Democrats, already assigned blame to the Republicans for budget battles brewing on the horizon, saying there’s only one path to reconciling the mess and that’s with their workaround on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Their speeches highlighted the word “compromise,” but in a way that suggested perhaps neither has read the book Getting to Yes. There’s an art to compromise, including listening and incorporating the input of others, something sorely missing here.

It’s important to note that the top 2016 challenge in all U.S. state legislatures is balancing their budgets. Unlike Colorado, more than a dozen states failed to meet their 2015 deadlines to balance their budget. So, while the spending limitations of TABOR and other constitutional requirements are hard to reconcile, it’s not TABOR causing the big squeeze, but, as experienced across the country, the very long lists of state spending that are exceeding available revenue. Continue reading

Jan 20

Guest Commentary: An unlawful swipe at TABOR on hospital provider “enterprise”

By Penn Pfiffner
Penn Pfiffner is a former Colorado legislator. He is chairman of the TABOR Committee.

Here’s a bad idea: hide a state government function off-budget and sock citizens with a big tax increase in the doing.

That’s what the Hickenlooper administration wants to do with its proposal to redefine the state’s hospital provider charge as an “enterprise.”

Colorado’s tax system is set up so that in a good economy, taxes are collected at a pace faster than growth in population and inflation. When government over-collects taxes, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) forces it to return the surplus to taxpayers.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story

 

 

 

Jan 12

Douglas Bruce’s response to “School superintendents join forces in funding rally at Colorado Capitol “

To Gazette reporter Debbie Kelley,

I read today’s propaganda piece for the government school Establishment’s demonstration at the Capitol. You should charge them a commission for being their loyal press agent.

Why don’t you report–

1) the actual salaries of the superintendents bleating for more money?

2) less than half of all government school employees are teachers?

3) the TOTAL spending per student in Colorado (TOTAL spending, including debt payments, buses, meals, sports, etc. divided by total average daily enrollment of full time students)?

4) they promised voters in 2000 Amendment 23 would solve their alleged problem? Continue reading

Jan 11

Questions about Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Colorado enterprise funds

Questions about Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Colorado enterprise funds (2 letters)

 By
Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman watches as attendance is taken during a session of the legislature at the state Capitol on May 6, 2015. (Brent Lewis, Denver Post file)

Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman watches as attendance is taken during a session of the legislature at the state Capitol on May 6, 2015. (Brent Lewis, Denver Post file)

Re: “Legal memo complicates Hickenlooper’s hospital provider fee effort,” Jan. 7 news story; and “Yet more trouble for state budget,” Jan. 8 editorial.

The hair-splitting continues between the branches of state government regarding the definition of an enterprise for the purposes of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The discussion is way down in the weeds, with one side focusing on what theoretically constitutes an enterprise and the other on the crippling result of applying the TABOR status quo.

In fiscal year 1993, the year after TABOR was passed, state enterprise fund revenues were approximately 4.5 percent of total state revenues. By fiscal year 2014, conversions had grown that to about 28.4 percent. While passing the legal test, many of the current enterprises fail the man-on-the-street “smell test.”

 

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Jan 11

Douglas Bruce’s Response to Mike Foote’s Editorial

douglas bruceThe Colorado TABOR Foundation received the following response from Douglas Bruce regarding Mike Foote’s editorial:
 
In the Camera, a local politician calls the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) “A 24-year-old constitutional amendment championed by a discredited anti-government crusader and convicted tax evader…” My 2005 “offense” was giving my entire county commissioner salary to charity. I was denied time to get an attorney, a local jury trial, the right to subpoena witnesses, and many other “rights” we thought we had. The IRS audited me and said the tax deduction was lawful and I was innocent, but their testimony was not allowed. The state case awaits a federal court hearing.
 
Mike Foote uses that frame-up to urge you to vote away your right to vote on taxes–a
classic personal attack. Now you know why the case was filed.
 
TABOR cuts nothing–never has, never will. TABOR applies only to 60% of state revenue. The spending growth limit applies only to excess revenue above an automatic growth rate that provides the state hundreds of millions in new revenue yearly. We can let the state keep all revenue, as in the pot tax refund vote last November.

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Jan 11

Mike Foote: TABOR cuts to schools and roads are coming

Mike Foote: TABOR cuts to schools and roads are coming

By Mike Foote

Posted:   01/09/2016 07:55:55 PM MST

A car hits a pothole on Boulder’s Canyon Boulevard last winter. State Rep. Mike Foote says TABOR is likely to cause further cuts to state funding for

A car hits a pothole on Boulder’s Canyon Boulevard last winter. State Rep. Mike Foote says TABOR is likely to cause further cuts to state funding for education and road maintenance. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

A 24-year-old constitutional amendment championed by a discredited anti-government crusader and convicted tax evader is now having profound effects on how your state legislators are budgeting for important areas like schools and roads. The 1992 TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution may require us to cut from those already under-funded areas despite your clear directions to us otherwise.

Let me explain this unfortunate situation a little further: TABOR requires the state to return tax revenues if those revenues exceed an amount based upon an arbitrary equation. When the economy does well, the state must return money it could otherwise use to invest in the future. The condition of our under-funded schools and clogged roads account for nothing in the cold calculus of TABOR’s allowed revenue formula.

Colorado’s schools and roads suffered greatly when the economy and tax revenues crashed during the last recession. Now that our economy is improving and revenue has increased, the state cannot invest in those necessary areas. Tax money comes in, and then the state turns around and sends some of it back out. Meanwhile, public school systems are hurting and roads are crumbling.

 

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Nov 21

Letter: TABOR isn’t hurting Colo. economy ‘at all’

Letter: TABOR isn’t hurting Colo. economy ‘at all’

Quin Roberts 2:31 p.m. MST November 20, 2015

Quinn for TABOR

(Photo: Courtesy photo)

Dick Heyman on Nov. 12 wrote that “We need to repeal the TABOR amendment completely,” because voters should not be allowed to interfere with “efficient government.”

Colorado’s TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) requires that tax increases and spending growth greater than the increase in population, plus inflation, be authorized by a vote of the people. It places no absolute limits on tax and spending increases. It simply makes our government get our permission to exceed the limit.

Mr. Heyman calls this requirement “stupid.” He is a reactionary and believes that TABOR creates an excess of democracy. Continue reading