Aug 06

Legal battles continue over Taxpayer Bill of Rights, hospital fees, transportation taxes

egal battles continue over Taxpayer Bill of Rights, hospital fees, transportation taxes

FILE - Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado.

On Nov. 3, 1992, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment which stipulates that lawmakers seeking to raise taxes or issue debt must first ask voters for permission.

Called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, it took effect Dec. 31, 1992, and was designed to serve as another check against the growth of government. It requires that any increase in overall revenue from taxes not exceed the rates of inflation and population growth.

The TABOR Foundation, which was instrumental in advancing the amendment, maintains that it has been a successful measure.

Others maintain it interferes with advancing critical public spending initiatives. Sam Mamet, the executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, opposes TABOR. Mamet argued on the 25th anniversary of TABOR that “iIt is one of the most seriously damaging things the voters of the state have done to themselves in the last 25 years, in my humble opinion.”

Since its inception 26 years ago, many attempts have been made to amend, circumvent and litigate TABOR; the foundation counts at least 80 cases between 1993 and 2017.

Pfiffner said a perfect example of this is the 2015 lawsuit it filed, TABOR Foundation, et al. v. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, et al. regarding Colorado’s “hospital provider fee,” which it argues is an unconstitutional tax.

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Jul 11

File This Under “How Much Is Enough?” Backers of a measure to raise taxes for education submit petition signatures

Backers of a measure to raise taxes for education submit petition signatures

DENVER, July 11, 2018 — The backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that boosts income taxes to raise money for education today turned in signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.

The signatures for Initiative 93, as it is now called, are the first to be turned in this election season in an effort to get a measure on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. It is also the first initiative where supporters had to collect signatures in all 35 state Senate districts as required by the 2016 ballot measure “Raise the Bar.”

Initiative 93 involves a complex formula for raising income taxes among the state’s top earners.

Colorado allows citizens to put issues on the ballot after going through a process that includes reviews by staffers with the Secretary of State, the attorney general and Legislative Legal Services. These reviews do not determine the merit of the proposal, only if it meets state standards to attempt to get on the ballot. Continue reading

Jun 14

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Should Be a Role Model for the Nation

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Should Be a Role Model for the Nation

A balanced budget requirement is neither necessary nor sufficient for good fiscal policy.

If you want proof for that assertion, check out states such as IllinoisCalifornia, and New Jersey. They all have provisions to limit red ink, yet there is more spending (and more debt) every year. There are also anti-deficit rules in nations such as GreeceFrance, and Italyand those countries are not exactly paragons of fiscal discipline.

The real gold standard for good fiscal policy is my Golden Rule. And the best way to make sure government doesn’t grow faster than the private sector is to have a constitutional rule limiting the growth of government.

That’s why I’m a big fan of the “debt brake” in Switzerland’s constitution and Article 107 in Hong Kong’s constitution.

And it’s also why the 49 other states, assuming they want an effective fiscal rule, should look at Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) as a role model.

Colorado’s Independence Institute has a very informative study on how TABOR works and the degree to which it has been effective. Here’s a good description of the system.

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. …The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires that excess government revenues be refunded to taxpayers, unless taxpayers vote to let the government keep the revenue.

And here are the headline results.

Cumulatively, TABOR refunds have been over $800 per Coloradan, or $3,200 for a family of four. …If Colorado government had continued growing at the same high rate (8.56% compound annual rate) as in 1983-92, the average Coloradan would have paid an additional $442 taxes in 2012. The cumulative two-decade savings per Coloradan are $6,173—or more than $24,000 for a family of four.

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Jun 07

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Jennifer Schubert-Akin and Amy Oliver Cooke
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The latest Census Bureau data released earlier this year shows that Colorado’s population has grown by nearly two-thirds since 1992, one of the fastest increases in the country. 

If you are part of the more than two million new residents who have arrived over this time, there are a few things you should know: Avoid I-70 on Sundays. We are Coloradans, not Coloradoans. And the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is responsible for much of the state’s economic success, which likely drew you here in the first place.

Between 1992 and 2016, median household income in Colorado grew by 30 percent, adjusted for inflation. This growth was more than double the national rate over the same period. Only Minnesota and North Dakota grew by more than 30 percent over this timeframe. Colorado gained $20 billion in adjusted gross income over these years — again, one of the biggest increases in the nation. 

While many other states have struggled with stagnant incomes over this period, what’s set Colorado apart? Its Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, passed in 1992, which requires state and local governments to ask voters for permission before raising taxes or debt. 

TABOR helped end years of economic stagnation and laid the groundwork for the state’s future success by keeping resources in the hands of Colorado residents who could put them to their highest valued use and checking overzealous government spending. 

TABOR has protected pocketbooks and state solvency from legislators who believe they know how to spend your money better than you. Its requirement that excess revenues must be refunded to taxpayers has also resulted in more than $2 billion being returned to the private economy to be spent at local businesses or saved for retirement.  

 

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May 22

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

DENVER — Whether you’ve lived in Colorado for a short time, or your entire life, you’ve probably heard about what’s known as TABOR: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Promoted by Republican lawmaker Douglas Bruce, voters in Colorado passed it back in 1992.  Under the TABOR amendment, taxes can’t be raised without voter approval. That includes the state sales tax and property taxes.

“It ensures that government cannot grow beyond what the people want it to do,” said Michael Fields of the conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity.

Fields argues TABOR leads to smart spending with an existing budget, prevents government from getting out of control and gives people of Colorado the power to decide when it’s appropriate to raise taxes.

“I think you make the case to the people,” Fields said. “If you want to invest in something more, then go make the case to the people – convince them that they need more revenue and that’ll pass.”

But there’s another side to TABOR.

“It’s not something good to have on our books. It’s actually hindered our ability as a state to do many things,” said TABOR opponent Amie Baca-Oehlert, of the Colorado Education Association.

She says she feels TABOR is a roadblock for lawmakers that prevents them from making responsible spending decisions in places where it is needed most, like Colorado’s schools.

“That just doesn’t seem right in a state with such a fast-growing economy,” she said.

But Colorado needs money to fix our ailing roads and bridges. So a push is underway to convince voters to approve a sales tax hike this November.  Educators are also pushing a tax increase to help public schools after a 2013 $1 billion proposed tax increase to pay for school funding was rejected by voters.

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an Aspen grocery bag surcharge was not a tax and thus did not fall under TABOR – the second successful challenge in recent months.

But what’s next? For the moment TABOR is here to stay. In order for it to be reversed completely – we as Coloradans would have vote to change it.

May 12

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Colorado Supreme Courtroom in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center

Nagel Photography | Shutterstock.com

Over the last 25 years, the Colorado courts have consistently legislated from the bench to weaken the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), two prominent advocacy groups committed to limited government assert. A recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling is one among many that “weakened taxpayer’s rights,” they argue.

Voters approved TABOR on Nov. 3, 1992, which then became part of the state constitution after the governor issued a proclamation on Jan. 14, 1993.

TABOR requires voter approval of most tax and debt increases. It also requires each government to reserve a percentage of non-debt-service spending (an amount that has fluctuated) for emergency reserves. It states that TABOR “shall reasonably restrain most of the growth of government. All provisions are self-executing and severable and supersede conflicting state constitutional, state statutory, charter, or other state or local provisions.” Continue reading

Apr 28

Colorado’s Gubernatorial Race 2018: The Hot Topics

 

Photo courtesy of Amanda Croy

Colorado’s Gubernatorial Race 2018: The Hot Topics

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Talking Points

The topics that will dominate candidates’ messaging throughout the campaign season.

Growth

It is the best of times…or is it the worst of times? That depends a lot on how you feel about Colorado’s growth. “Normally, the economy would be the highest issue for most voters,” Paul Teske, a dean at CU Denver, says. “There will be a lot of talk about sustaining the boom.” But, adds DU’s Seth Masket: “There are a lot of different areas of the state that are adversely affected by this growth.” Transportation has become a perennial funding battle at the Capitol and could benefit from strong gubernatorial influence (read: political pressure) to make Republicans and Democrats find bipartisan ways forward. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Colorado is three percent (it was 8.9 percent at the end of 2010), which on its face is great news, but that near-full employment causes woes for companies desperate to fill jobs. Wages—particularly in the metro area—haven’t kept up with cost-of-living expenses, which means that although people are finding work, they may not be able to pay bills. And the biggest expense for many voters is rising housing costs. Mix that all together, and the moment is prime for a gubernatorial candidate to stand out by creating a unique vision for Colorado’s future.

Education

This may seem like a topic that matters most to people who are raising families, but this year, candidates will compel everyone to think about Colorado’s education system (funding here ranks in the bottom third of all states in the country). Which makes sense: Property owners help pay for schools, employers benefit from a well-prepared workforce, and we all want the best for society’s youngsters, right? But how we ensure we have a strong education system is quite a bit more complicated. Magellan Strategies’ David Flaherty says Republican candidates should be talking about education right now and through November. “It’s the one issue we completely give to the Democrats,” Flaherty says. “It’s unfortunate because it’s one of the top two issues for unaffiliated voters.”

Tabor

Conversations about addressing growing pains or giving more money to teachers inevitably evolve into talks about what to do about Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which limits government spending to match population growth and inflation increases.
Under TABOR, which passed in 1992, leftover revenue is returned to the taxpayers. Proponents herald the limits on government spending; detractors warn that TABOR isn’t robust enough to respond to real-time needs, like shifting populations in schools due to high housing costs.
But Coloradans tend to like the control TABOR gives them: A January 2018 report from the American Politics Research Lab at CU Boulder found that “support among Coloradans outpaces opposition,” with 45 percent of respondents supporting TABOR.
That number has fallen since 2016, and the study notes that more than a quarter of respondents had “uncertainty about a position.” In short, there’s room for candidates to make TABOR the issue of the campaign.
Republican candidates are likely to support working within TABOR’s constraints. Democrats will probably talk more about reform or repeal.

Guns

 

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Apr 26

TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)

TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)

If there’s one thing teachers hate, it’s Cliffnotes, but here’s a “Cliffnotes”-style explainer of the education funding shortfalls Colorado teachers are protesting.

KUSA – By now, you’ve probably read that thousands of teachers plan to rally at the Colorado State Capitol on Thursday and Friday.

This has led the state’s largest school districts to cancel class. To put this into perspective, if you got all the kids who will have the day off in the same place, it would be Colorado’s second largest city.

A stock photo of Colorado Springs, for context.
RondaKimbrow, RondaKimbrow

It’s a big deal.

RELATED | Why thousands of Colorado teachers are protesting on Thursday and Friday

Education funding in Colorado is confusing, as in the kind of thing that still doesn’t make sense even after spending half of your work day trying to brush up on it (talking from experience here).

But, like “War and Peace,” your state’s education budget is important … but also super confounding and kinda tedious (apologies to all the Tolstoy fans out there). So, here’s our attempt at a Cliffnotes version to get you up to speed before our coverage of the teacher protests (which is ironic because if there’s one thing teachers hate, it’s using Cliffnotes instead of reading the actual book).

RELATED | These districts are canceling class on April 27 due to teacher walkouts

What are the teachers protesting?

Colorado’s teachers are protesting a few things. First off, they’re speaking out against the state’s lack of education funding (some studies put Colorado in the bottom tier nationwide), low teacher pay (while you’ll see some reports that teacher pay in Colorado is ranked 46th in the country, it’s actually 31st at $52,736 a year, according to the latest National Education Association report) and proposed changes to their pension plan.

During the protests, there’s one thing hear about a lot: TABOR, and specifically, how it impacts the education budget.

So … what’s up with TABOR?

A stock photo of a teacher explaining TABOR.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, This content is subject to copyright.

No, it’s not someone’s name (necessarily). Instead, it’s an acronym for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. This was passed in 1992, and basically, you can trace everything that’s a little unique about Colorado’s budget back to this.

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Apr 13

Join the TABOR offensive!

Join the TABOR offensive!

Join the TABOR offensive!

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is universally despised, neigh, deplored by every tax-happy progressive around the country. Ever wonder why it’s like sunlight to a vampire to them, and why they’ve weakened it in court-ruling after court-ruling for 25 years? Then please join us on Monday, April 23, in Colorado Springs for our first stop on the TABOR Road Show 2018.

There’s a growing coalition of national, state, and local TABOR supporters that won’t tolerate any more attacks on or weakening of the greatest gift Colorado voters ever gave themselves or future generations – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the right to vote on increases in taxes and debt. We are crisscrossing the state to let people know about the TABOR Yes coalition, some two dozen strong and growing, and why Coloradans should fall in love with TABOR again.

For additional information on TABOR and our coalition, visit our Web site TABORYes.com.

Please RSVP here!

Monday, April 23rd
5:30-7 PM

Barrel Room at IvyWild School
1604 S. Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80905

Local HostSpringsTaxpayers.com
Emcee: Jeff Crank, The Jeff Crank Show
Moderator: Amy Oliver Cooke, Independence Institute

Panelists:
Michael Fields, Americans for Prosperity Foundation
Jon Caldara, Independence Institute
Hadley Heath Manning, Independent Women’s Forum (invited)

Supported by the
TABOR YES COALITION

Americans for Prosperity- Colorado
Americans for Tax Reform
America’s House of Commons
Americhicks
Approval Voting
Arapahoe Tea Party
CATO Institute
Centennial Institute
Center for Freedom Prosperity
Coalition to Reduce Spending
Colorado Issues Coalition
Colorado Log Cabin Republicans
Colorado Union of Taxpayers
Independence Institute
Independent Women’s Forum
Mountain States Legal Foundation
National Asian Indian Republican Association
Reagan Republicans
Republican Liberty Caucus Colorado
SpringsTaxpayers.com
Taxpayers Chamber of Commerce
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
The Hudson Firm
The Steamboat Institute
Wake Up with Randy Corporon (710 KNUS)
Kelsey M. Alexander
Barbara Piper
Dennis Polhill
Geri Zahner

Join the TABOR offensive!

Apr 13

So tell us, Dave Young, what’s wrong with TABOR that it needs fixing as you said “he will fight for more funding and work to fix Colorado Constitutional amendments TABOR and Gallagher.”

Teachers union endorses Rep. Dave Young for state treasurer

Tyler Silvy

April 12, 2018

Dave Young

JUNE PRIMARY

Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, will compete against two other Democratic nominees for state treasurer at the June 26 primary.

The Colorado Education Association has endorsed Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, in his campaign for state treasurer, adding to a long list of endorsements punctuated by union support.

Young, who is term limited in Colorado House District 50, is running for treasurer and has two Democratic opponents — Bernard Douthit, a Denver businessman; and Charles Scheibe, Colorado’s chief financial officer.

The most recent campaign filings has Young outraising both, and the most recent endorsement announcement appears to add further momentum.

“I am so proud to be endorsed by the CEA,” Young said in the release, adding he would fight to ensure public schools get the funding they deserve.

Young is a former teacher, serving in Greeley classrooms for 24 years. He was also the president and lead bargainer for the Greeley Education Association, the local chapter of the statewide teachers union.

CEA President Kerrie Dallman had positive things to say.

“Dave has been a crucial force in bringing forth legislation to help our educators and students, and to increase funding for our state’s schools,” Dallman said in the release. “With his leadership, we can make sure that every child in Colorado has access to a high-quality public education.”

Along with the CEA, Young has earned the endorsement of the Pipefitters Local 208 and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, as well as the support of more than 50 elected officials, including Congressman Ed Perlmutter and former Governor Bill Ritter, according to the release.

Young said in the release he has first-hand knowledge of teachers going without raises and students going without resources, saying he will fight for more funding and work to fix Colorado Constitutional amendments TABOR and Gallagher.

Teachers union endorses Rep. Dave Young for state treasurer