May 28

From An Editorial On May 5, 2019: State Could Go Off A Fiscal Cliff

State could go off a fiscal cliff

By: Barry W Poulson
May 5, 2019

Colorado has created a fiscal cliff; the state is woefully unprepared for the revenue shortfall that will accompany the next recession. Citizens might be surprised to learn that the state has been pursuing imprudent policies that will result in a fiscal crisis when the next recession hits. It is important to understand how the fiscal cliff was created and what we can do about it.

Over the past two decades, Colorado has weakened the fiscal constraints imposed by the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights. TABOR limits the rate of growth in state spending to the sum of inflation plus population growth, regardless of the amount of revenue the state takes in.

But most state revenue is exempt from the TABOR limit. The exempt funds include the revenue from enterprises and the fees collected by government agencies, which have grown rapidly over this period. As a result, over the past decade TABOR has not constrained the growth in spending, and this year the state will spend virtually every dollar of revenue it takes in.

The fiscal cliff is also linked to a rapid growth in debt and unfunded liabilities. While limits are imposed on general obligation debt, there are no limits on the issuance of revenue bonds. These are bonds with a dedicated stream of revenue used to pay off the bonds over time. As state enterprises have grown they have saddled the state with greater debt burdens.

Increasing debt is also incurred in the form of unfunded liabilities. Despite the recent reforms enacted in the Public Employees Retirement Association, unfunded liabilities continue to increase. The official estimate of these unfunded liabilities is $32 billion; but with realistic assumptions regarding rates returns on assets, the actual unfunded liabilities are estimated to be in excess of $100 billion. Continue reading

May 26

TABOR and COVID 19: We’re All Gonna Pay

TABOR and COVID 19: We’re all gonna pay

Blog post by Christine Burtt
5/26/2020 – 4 minute read

Let’s face it.  You can’t shut down the economy, borrow trillions of dollars to subsidize households and businesses, and cause massive unemployment in the private sector without getting seriously upside down in tax revenues.

The Colorado state budget will be about $3.3B in the hole for FY2021, and that doesn’t include deficits in county and special district budgets.

If Legislatures over the years had honored the requirement of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to stash away an emergency fund, we’d have roughly $1B in cash right now.  Instead of a lockbox of cash, illiquid government buildings were determined to be assets counted toward the emergency fund. Anybody have cash to buy a government building?  But I digress….

In the Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature, raising taxes is the easy answer to a budget shortfall. The short-term exercise is to reconcile what is “essential” vs “nice to have.”

In reality, government mandated services like administering food stamps, running elections, law enforcement, infrastructure, and paying public employee retirement benefits will be protected. But other programs funded for ideological wish-lists may be delayed – until they can raise taxes.

The most likely ways to raise taxes include: Continue reading

May 02

Paid family leave ballot measures move forward, with Democratic lawmakers in support

paid family leave
State Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, speaks at a statehouse rally for a Colorado paid family leave program on April 9, 2019.

The four sponsors of a Democratic-led proposal at the state Capitol have abandoned their legislative proposal and are now endorsing the three ballot measures proposed by Colorado Families First. According to state Rep. Matt Gray of Broomfield, they don’t have a preference and will endorse whatever the ballot proponents put in front of voters.

The four lawmakers talked to reporters Friday about the reasons for letting go of their five-year effort to put a paid family and medical leave program into state law and why they’re backing the ballot measures.

The court orders on ballot initiatives 247 and 248 dealt with a challenge by Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which claimed the programs proposed under the ballot measures were a tax and hence violated the provisions of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which require voter approval for any tax increase. The language of all three ballot measures do not reference TABOR requirements.

 

Apr 27

Colorado lawmakers are looking at how to close a $3 billion budget shortfall. Here’s the roadmap.

The Joint Budget Committee will begin reviewing recommendations for spending cuts this week to rewrite the $30 billion state budget

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the $30 billion-plus state budget begins to take shape this week as lawmakers consider massive spending cuts.

How much tax revenue Colorado will lose to the paralyzed economy remains uncertain, but the governor’s budget office is projecting $3 billion in lost revenue for the current fiscal year and the next.

The General Assembly’s budget writers on Monday will start reviewing recommendations from legislative analysts for potential spending cuts across all government agencies. The documents are expected to include scenarios for slashing budgets as much as 20% and force legislators to make hard choices that will impact most Colorado families, according to drafts reviewed by The Colorado Sun.

To continue reading this story, please click (HERE):

Apr 07

“Truth and reason in ballot language!”

“Truth and reason in ballot language!”
April, 2020

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights includes good government provisions that improve election procedures.

There was a time when Colorado elected officials could push for passage of a bond, or for new taxes, but bury the cost very deep into the explanation on the ballot, in hopes that many voters might not notice the magnitude of the tax.

The ballot language would promise all kinds of wonderful outcomes.  Not only would the new revenues for the government solve the problem in perpetuity, but it would bring world peace and even make the voter more handsome!  Then, near the end in the midst of a lot of other promises, would come the information that the cost to the taxpayer would be very, very high.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights stopped that sort of game playing.  Now, the government must put the cost right up front.  It has no option but to state how much the new tax will weigh annually on the taxpayer.  For a new bond, the ballot measure must state at the very beginning how much the total new debt will be and what that means for the total repayment cost.  Only then may the government (“district”) present its reasons for the new taxes.

Another game that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights anticipated and which it explicitly prohibits is a government underestimating a revenue number.  If the new taxes exceed the estimate, the entirety of the overage must be refunded the next year and the rate adjusted downward.

Colorado constitution (Article X, Section 20), paragraph 3(c) states:  “Ballot titles shall begin, ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) TAXES BE INCREASED ____ ANNUALLY?’  (or)  ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) DEBT BE INCREASED (principal amount) WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF (maximum..)’.”  Earlier in the same paragraph is the requirement that “if a tax increase exceeds any estimate… for the same fiscal year, the tax increase is thereafter reduced up to 100% in proportion to the …excess, and the combined excess revenue refunded….”

The paragraph was carefully crafted as a good government improvement, with TABOR protecting the taxpayer in ways beyond just voting on tax rates.

Mar 19

Explore the Colorado State Budget

 

Michael Fields@MichaelCLFields

Here’s a good tool to better understand our state budget. It’s much more accessible than what’s been previously available from the state.

KC Becker@kcbecker
If you’re looking for something to read while #socialdistancing, we’ve launched a tool to help you understand the Colorado Budget! Find simple explanations on where revenue comes from, how taxes are spent, TABOR, school financing, and much more!

To see where the money comes in and goes out in Colorado’s state budget, click (HERE):

 

Mar 12

Paid leave, petitions ballot measures land in state Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court In Denver
The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in downtown Denver, home of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Five additional challenges to proposed ballot initiatives went to the Colorado Supreme Court this week, as opponents seek to block measures pertaining to paid leave, tax policy and the petitioning process from the November statewide ballot.

Kelly Brough, the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, filed four of the challenges. She wrote in a court petition that she believed Initiative 245, which would create a right to ballot initiative at virtually every level of state and local government, had a misleading ballot title because it omitted descriptions of several key features from the complex measure.

Specifically, she argued that the title should inform voters of a reduction in signatures required to put an initiative on the ballot, of newly-assigned jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to hear initiative protests and of prohibitions on legislation from the General Assembly on topics that voters previously rejected through referendum.

The three-member Title Board sets the ballot titles for voters if they determine that an initiative constitutes a single subject. The title must include the central components of the proposal, but also be brief.

To continue reading this story, please click (HERE):

Mar 12

NEW COLORADO BALLOT PROPOSAL

Increase taxes on rich, lower them for rest

Coloradans may be voting this November on a proposal to raise billions of dollars annually by hiking taxes on the rich and using the money on schools and other, unspecified needs of a “growing population and changing economy.”

An issue committee that calls itself Fair Tax Colorado announced Thursday that it will begin collecting signatures to place its proposal, titled Initiative 271, on the 2020 ballot. They’ll need at least 124,632 of them to qualify for the ballot.

It would compensate for the loss in revenue from the tax cut by requiring everyone earning at least $250,000 to pay a 7% income tax rate on their federal taxable income after the first $250,000 and up to $500,000.

Anyone earning more than $500,000 would then pay a 7.75% rate on their income above and beyond the first $500,000, and up to $1 million. Finally, for anyone earning more than $1 million, the measure proposes to tax them $67,700 plus 8.9% of all federal taxable income above and beyond the first million

To continue reading this story, please click (HERE):