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 05

TABOR talk will focus on K12 funding

TABOR talk will focus on K12 funding – Telluride Daily Planet: News

The state of Colorado ranks 47th nationwide in K12 funding and, according to a recent Colorado Fiscal Institute study, spends more than $2,000 less per student than the national average.

According to education advocates, those less-than-stellar numbers are thanks in part to restrictions placed on schools by TABOR, the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a significant but little-understood amendment to the state constitution in place since 1992.

 Several local groups will educate parents and taxpayers about TABOR and other K12 funding issues at an event Friday with a representative from the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The event is 1:30-3 p.m. at the Wilkinson Public Library and is presented by Bright Futures and WeR-1 (the Telluride Education Foundation).

“TABOR is having a significant negative impact on K12 funding, and it’s time to act on it in order for our schools to be fully funded,” said Kathleen Merritt, the executive director of Bright Futures, a Telluride-based nonprofit that supports children from birth through third grade. “It would behoove everyone to be informed about what TABOR is, why it came about and the impact it’s having.”


Continue reading

Apr 30

In Colorado, School Funding Lags Despite A Booming Economy

In Colorado, School Funding Lags Despite A Booming Economy


Audio: CPR’s Jenny Brundin Reports On School Funding

Douglas Bruce, a driving force behind the Taxpayer’s Bill Of Rights, celebrates the amendment’s passing in November 1992. Critics say it now limits how much money is spent on education in Colorado.

(Courtesy Denver Public Library, Rocky Mountain News archives / Jay Koelzer)

This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students. Colorado’s economy is hot. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. And shiny new skyscrapers are rising all over Denver as revelers pour fistfuls of cash into downtown bars and restaurants.

But no one invited Colorado’s public schools to the party.

“They have outdated technology, larger class sizes. They’ve lost the opportunity to offer certain programs. They can’t retain teachers. They can’t attract teachers,” says Tracie Rainey with the Colorado School Finance Project, a nonprofit research group.  “They’ve had fewer school days, furlough days, all sorts of maintenance issues.”

The list goes on. Many educators and parents had hoped that, as Colorado’s economy roared back from the Great Recession, the nearly $5 billion that lawmakers had cut from the state’s public schools would come back with it.

They were wrong.

“I was told that an improved economy would mean cuts would continue,” says Shannon Bird. The concerned mother of two school-age children lives north of Denver and has made several trips to the state Capitol to lobby for more funding. “Lawmakers told me their hands are tied.”

How is it that the nation’s 14th richest state ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student? Especially in a year that taxpayers can expect rebate checks from the state totaling $156 million?

Most Restrictive In The Country

The simple answer is, that’s what voters wanted. In 1992, they amended the state’s constitution with something called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.


Continue reading

Apr 20

Colorado’s Budget Settled, But Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds

Colorado’s Budget Settled, Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds « CBS Denver .

Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, want the fee set aside to avoid refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, free millions of dollars for Colorado’s underfunded roads and schools, and give momentum to pending ballot initiatives that would ease TABOR’s grip on state finances.

It’s a debate that some thought settled well before both chambers approved the $27 billion budget last week. Not so, said Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat.

“In this budget we managed to get by, but next year it will be twice as bad with cuts in education and higher education,” she said. The House could debate her bill this week.

Hullinghorst said reclassifying the fee can provide at least five years’ flexibility to spend more on schools and roads, and tackle TABOR and other constitutional restrictions on budget writers’ room to maneuver.

TABOR requires refunds whenever total state income surpasses a cap that’s based on inflation and population, not the economy’s performance.


Continue reading

Mar 30

Bipartisan Hospital Provider Fee Bill Introduced At Colorado Capitol

Bipartisan Hospital Provider Fee Bill Introduced At Colorado Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol.

(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

State lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would eliminate tax refunds and give the state more money to spend.Colorado is collecting so much money that it has to send some of it back to residents, as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But Democrats say there’s a big pot of money in the state budget that shouldn’t count toward the TABOR limit. It’s a fee hospitals pay that the state spends on expanding health coverage for the poor.

The new bill changes how the state accounts for this fee, making it exempt from TABOR. That would effectively allow the state to hold onto hundreds of millions of dollars it would otherwise have to pay out in tax rebates.

A separate measure, which would only apply to next year, directs lawmakers to spend the extra money on transportation, local governments, and schools.

The fee-change bill has bipartisan sponsorship. Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican, says the change could help rural hospitals in his southeastern district.

However the Republicans who control the state Senate strongly oppose the reclassification, calling it an end-run around TABOR.

House Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst said she tried to work with Senate leaders.

“There didn’t seem to be a way that we could get together,” she said. “And I felt that we had to move forward.”

– See more at:

Mar 30

Speaker: Talks on proposal to eliminate TABOR refunds at a stalemate

Speaker: Talks on proposal to eliminate TABOR refunds at a stalemate

Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder was nominated as majority leader during the Colorado House of Representatives Democratic Caucus at the state Capitol in Denver, CO, Thursday November 8, 2012. Democrats took back the majority in the House after Tuesday’s election, and will have a 37-28 majority when the session opens in January. Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

DENVER – The speaker of the Colorado House said negotiations have reached a “stalemate” on a long-debated and highly anticipated proposal to retain more state revenue through an accounting change that would eliminate TABOR refunds in future years.

The prospects for the bills Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst introduced Monday are poor in the Republican-dominated Senate.

One of the bills reauthorizes a fee charged on hospital stays so that millions of dollars go into an enterprise fund that is exempt from the spending limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The other bill spends the revenue the state would retain if the first bill passes.

Continue reading

The TABOR Speakers Bureau is available to explain TABOR to your organization members and answer questions


11903845_10153520059035902_2509540475343472795_nDoes your group or organization need a dynamic speaker and timely topic for your next meeting?

How about learning more on a subject that saves you money and stops the explosive growth of government spending?

You’ve heard of TABOR (The Taxpayers Bill Of Rights), haven’t you?

It’s been in the news quite a bit lately.

Why not use the TABOR Speakers Bureau for your next meeting?

We take the time to explain  “what” TABOR is along with what it does—or doesn’t do,  “how” it works, “why” it’s so important to Colorado,  “when” Coloradans get TABOR refunds, and “how” it impacts you. Continue reading

Jan 16

Fight over TABOR expected in Denver this session

Eric Fink, Multimedia Journalist,
POSTED: Jan 15, 2016 

TABOR fight looms as session gets underway

DENVER – In a tight budget year in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to take more than $200 million that’s set to go back to taxpayers under TABOR and put that money towards new programs for education and roads.  GOP leadership, however, argues that’s unconstitutional.

“Right now no one can say with a straight face that our budget rules are working for us,” Hickenlooper said Thursday in his State of the State address.

A Colorado Springs state senator  who chairs the senate education committee believes that plan only hurts Coloradans’ wallets.

“When we’re supposed to give several hundred million dollars back to citizens they want to move it out from TABOR so it doesn’t hit us up against that constitutional cap and how much money the government can take in, so they can keep more of people’s money,” Sen. Owen Hill said. “That’s a non-starter in an economy that continues to be sluggish, we continue to struggle with higher levels of unemployment than we should.”

Jan 12

Colorado Superintendents ask for increased funding

January 12, 2016 12:20 PM· By Sherrie Peif

Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.

Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.

About a hundred teachers, school board members, union activists and others gathered Monday at the Colorado Capitol to support superintendents from across Colorado in their effort to increase funding for their school districts.

The exact number of superintendents on hand was not known, but organizers say superintendents from 167 of the 178 districts in Colorado support the efforts, which started with many lobbying legislators to support reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it falls outside the requirements of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver, says the Hospital Provider Fee is nothing more than a bed tax*.

The move would free up hundreds of millions of dollars under TABOR and leave the state free to fund other programs such as education. Superintendents say that since 2010 they have lost $5 billion in funding due to the “Negative Factor,” a budgeting mechanism used by the Colorado General Assembly to restrain total spending on public education while still allowing base spending to rise by enrollment plus inflation each year.


Continue reading

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