May 24

Two Decades of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR)

Executive Summary:
Over two decades have passed since Colorado voters adopted The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. TABOR allows government spending to grow each year at the rate of inflation-plus-population. Government can increase faster whenever voters consent. Likewise, tax rates can be increased whenever voters consent. This Issue Paper analyzes TABOR’s effect on state government spending and taxes by examining three decades: The 1983-92 pre-TABOR decade; the first decade of TABOR, 1993-2002; and the second decade, 2003-12. The final decade included the largest tax increase in Colorado history, enacted as Referendum C in 2005. Decade-2 was also marked by increasing efforts to evade TABOR by defining nearly 60% of the state budget as “exempt” from TABOR.

Conclusion:

Tax-and-Spending Limitation Results

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Amendment has worked well to achieve its stated intention to “slow government growth.”  Although government has still continued to grow significantly faster than the rate of population-plus-inflation, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights did partially dampen excess government growth.  It did not cut or reduce reasonable government growth.

In terms of economic vitality, Colorado’s Decade-1 was best for Colorado.  Unlike in the pre-TABOR decade, or in TABOR Decade-2 with its record increase in taxes and spending, because of Referendum C, Colorado’s first TABOR decade saw the state economy far outperform the national economy.

https://www.i2i.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IP-4-2016_b.pdf

 

Two Decades of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR)

May 22

GUEST COLUMN: Say “no” to a special session

GUEST COLUMN: Say “no” to a special session

By: Michael Fields

May 21, 2016

AFP Michael Fields

Not even 48 hours after the legislative session ended, the governor floated the idea of convening a special session to address the hotly debated hospital provider fee.

This drumbeat has continued in the press, with pressure from countless special interest groups who didn’t get their way during the normal 120-day session. And this all comes after the Senate Finance Committee voted down a bill to move the $750 million hospital provider fee into a separate enterprise fund for the second year in a row.

Proponents of this move want you to believe that to fix roads and help schools, this budget gimmick is desperately needed. They have grabbed onto compelling buzzwords, cleverly invoked as rationale to adopt this plan. These messages are used to pull on people’s heart strings and convince them that enterprising the hospital provider fee would somehow fix our transportation and education needs. The fact is creating this enterprise would be an end-run around our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and would not fix our long-term funding problems.

To fully understand what has been going on with our state budget, let’s look at a few numbers:

– The state budget has gone from $19 billion to $27 billion in just seven years. Continue reading

May 22

Partisan posturing trumps a better Colorado

Perspective

Partisan posturing trumps a better Colorado

By Henry Dubroff and John Huggins
Posted:   05/21/2016 05:00:00 PM MDT

TABOR local leaders discuss changesLocal leaders discuss possible changes to the state’s constitutional initiative process in a small group during the Building a Better Colorado community summit at Northeastern Junior College on Dec. 7. (Sterling Journal-Advocate)

 

The tensions between populism and policymaking that are so evident in this year’s presidential primaries have trickled down to the state level.

In Colorado’s case, major policy reforms — including those that emerged from last fall’s Building a Better Colorado process of town hall meetings — have at times taken a back seat to partisan posturing.

But the Building a Better Colorado reforms remain a key part of the civic agenda, especially in these three areas:

  • Reform or replace the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), or put in place a “TABOR relief valve” so that the state may keep a bigger share of tax revenue to fund roads, schools and other infrastructure necessary to serve Colorado’s growing population.
  • Reform our primary election process so that the results better reflect the will of voters and also put Colorado where it belongs on the national political map, as the most influential swing state in the Rocky Mountain region.
  • Establish somewhat higher though reachable hurdles for qualifying and approving constitutional amendments, taking into account Colorado’s diverse geographic and demographic interests.

The difficulty in getting TABOR relief approved in the just-finished legislative session underscores how tricky it is to enact reforms in an election year where the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders insurgencies are having a big impact. In the state Senate, for example, majority Republicans were pushed by the Colorado chapter of the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity not to tweak the language of the state’s hospital provider fee and exempt it from TABOR limits. The penalty: facing a more conservative primary opponent at the next election.

To read the rest of this Denver Post story about TABOR, click (HERE):

May 13

Call a special session

Call a special session | GJSentinel.com

Call a special session

One of the bigger disappointments of the current legislative session, which ends today, is that Senate Republicans dodged taking any action on the contentious hospital provider fee.

The House passed two bills, 1420 and 1450, which would have converted the fee to an enterprise, thereby freeing up space under the revenue cap set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Getting the fee out from under TABOR would have allowed $750 million to be directed toward transportation and education and helped backfill some of the $362 million in severance taxes that lawmakers have used to cover spending gaps since 2006.

Senate leaders delayed introducing the bills until Tuesday, thus assuring they wouldn’t get the required number of readings needed to pass before the sessions ends.

Several Republicans broke ranks to support the House measures, so it would have been instructive to hear arguments in the Senate. In an election year, voters deserve to understand the rationale behind fiscal policy positions and who’s taking them.

Early on, some Republicans argued that converting the fee eliminated refunds to taxpayers. But budget negotiations removed that scenario from the equation. In a parallel universe, funding for roads and schools without a tax increase sounds like something the GOP would get behind.

“I don’t quite understand a lot of my fellow Republicans saying, ‘Oh, we have to preserve TABOR,’” John Suthers told The Colorado Independent last week. “The easiest way to preserve TABOR, and not increase taxes, is to remove the provider fee from the calculation. But obviously there’s a group in the Senate that feels differently.”

In 2009, Suthers, who was then Colorado’s Republican attorney general, urged lawmakers to make the new fee an enterprise. The current attorney general, Republican Cynthia Coffman, says converting it now is perfectly legal.

 

Continue reading

Apr 03

Budget fix still crucial for Colorado

Budget fix still crucial for Colorado

Lawmakers should reclassify hospital provider fee

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

POSTED:   04/01/2016 05:00:00 PM MDT

Colorado legislators are seeking to reclassify the state hospital provider fee into a separate  enterprise fund  that would allow Colorado to remain below

Colorado legislators are seeking to reclassify the state hospital provider fee into a separate enterprise fund that would allow Colorado to remain below revenue limits imposed by the Taxpayer s Bill of Rights without refunding money. (Steve Nehf, Denver Post file)

Yes, Colorado lawmakers, it’s still important to deal with a projected budgetary crunch triggered by future tax refunds even if they are no longer likely in the next fiscal year.

The problem is only being delayed for one year. Refunds will almost certainly be required in the following years under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights unless the economy entirely tanks. And yet they will come at the expense of critical transportation, capital maintenance and education funding. Indeed, transportation funding is already slated to decline in next year’s budget.

In other words, lawmakers still have urgent reason this session to reclassify the hospital provider fee into a separate “enterprise fund” to allow the state to remain below TABOR revenue limits without refunding money.

To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

 

 

Mar 26

Colorado’s provider ‘fee’: Even the federal government knows its a tax

March 25, 2016 12:22 PM· By Linda Gorman

In 2009, the Democrats controlling Colorado state government wanted more money. Among other things, they wanted to expand Medicaid. They needed to increase state revenues. Their problem was that the Colorado Constitution requires a vote on new state taxes and the U.S. was in the depths of a severe economic downturn.

icon_blog_noteState officials knew that a new tax would never be approved by a popular vote. To get around both the letter and the spirit of their constitutional duty, they simply labeled the provider tax a “fee” and imposed it. Fees do not require a vote.

Today that tax badly disguised as a fee is raising $688 million in additional revenues that is counted towards the total amount of tax revenue that the state is allowed to keep under the Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

 

Continue reading

Mar 13

“No One Owes You Anything”

Harry Browne, an American author and businessman, first wrote this in 1966. It’s a letter dedicated to his daughter, then nine years old. Take a look — we guarantee you’ll learn a lot.

’…It’s Christmas and I have the usual problem of deciding what to give you. I know you might enjoy many things — books, games, clothes.

But I’m very selfish. I want to give you something that will stay with you for more than a few months or years. I want to give you a gift that might remind you of me every Christmas.

If I could give you just one thing, I’d want it to be a simple truth that took me many years to learn. If you learn it now, it may enrich your life in hundreds of ways. And it may prevent you from facing many problems that have hurt people who have never learned it.

The truth is simply this:

No one owes you anything.

Significance

How could such a simple statement be important? It may not seem so, but understanding it can bless your entire life.

No one owes you anything. Continue reading