Sep 30

Lawsuit filed seeking to remove Amendment 78 from Colorado’s November ballot

FILE - Colorado Election 2020
A lone voter casts his ballot amid voting stations set up in the McNichols building Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in downtown Denver.

Amendment 78 would transfer the power to appropriate custodial funds (state revenue not generated through taxes) from the state treasurer to the state legislature.

Plaintiffs alleged that the amendment is not substantially related to Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and therefore should not appear on the 2021 ballot. Measures that can go on the ballot during odd years in Colorado are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR. This requirement was added to state law in 1994. The Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires voter approval for all new taxes, tax rate increases, extensions of expiring taxes, mill levy increases, valuation for property assessment increases, or tax policy changes resulting in increased tax revenue. TABOR limits the amount of money the state of Colorado can take in and spend. It ties the annual increase for some state revenue to inflation plus the percentage change in state population. Any money collected above this limit is refunded to taxpayers unless the voters allow the state to spend it

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Sep 28

EDITORIAL: $4 billion in returns will fuel the economy

Tails should not wag dogs. It defies physics, not to mention the will of the dog. Tails should wag dogs no more than politicians should decide the size and scope of a government established by the governed to serve the governed. A roaring economy should never increase the size and scope of government unless the people demand it.

The residents of Colorado have made clear they don’t want more government. They believe the state has all the money it needs. They reiterated this conviction just two years ago when they trounced Proposition CC, a proposal to let the state keep revenues above a floating state spending cap determined by an equation of inflation and population growth.

Just last year, voters went a step further and lowered the Property tax from 4.63% to 4.55%, and probably would have voted for a lower rate had they been given the option.

One reason this center-left blue state wants to throttle back government spending is the general discontent the public has with the way politicians treat their money.

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Sep 16

Sen. Rob Woodward: Why can’t Democrats respect the will of the voters?

By Sen. Rob Woodward 

If there is one thing that I’ve learned during my time in state government, it’s that Coloradans like to have their voices heard on taxes, fees and government debt. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is often at the center of debate and discussion on these issues, but at every opportunity that voters have had, they’ve repeatedly upheld TABOR.

Colorado voters soundly defeated — by over 100,000 votes — an attempt to repeal portions of TABOR just two years ago when we voted down Proposition CC. Then, in 2020, voters strengthened TABOR by passing Proposition 117, which required that any new fees that feed into a government enterprise that expect to bring in over $100 million over five years must be voted on by the people. This initiative was born from necessity as some politicians found it convenient to bypass TABOR by simply switching out the term “tax” for “fee.”

This legislative session, Democrats, who have complete control over state government, were determined to not let you have a say when it comes to taxes and fees. Colorado Public Radio columnist Andrew Kenney dubbed this legislative session as “The Year Democrats Left TABOR Behind,” and I unfortunately must agree.

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Sep 07

EDITORIAL: Refunds remind us of TABOR’s wisdom

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The Colorado State Capitol building during the final day of the legislative session on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Denver, Colo. (Katie Klann/The Gazette)

It seems like just yesterday to us that Colorado voters adopted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights on the statewide ballot and ensconced it into the state’s constitution. Yet, the groundbreaking policy has been in effect for nearly three decades.

In that time, it has kept state and local government on a diet — and has saved taxpayers untold millions of dollars. And they still love it after all these years, as most credible polls show.

Perhaps more noteworthy: Even some political leaders on the center-left seem to have made their peace with the policy. Our reputedly liberal Democratic governor from Boulder went so far as to laud it just the other day. That’s quite a stride.

Yet, TABOR’s basic premise has always made perfect sense to the general public. It requires voter approval for any tax hike at any level of government in the state. And it set limits on the rate at which government budgets can grow. Any increase in tax revenue that exceeds the rates of growth plus inflation in a given year have to be returned to taxpayers. Elected leaders can keep the overage if they first ask voters’ permission.

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Sep 04

Here’s the income-tax cut and refund payment Coloradans will get because the TABOR cap was exceeded

Here’s the income-tax cut and refund payment Coloradans will get because the TABOR cap was exceeded

According to the state controller, the cap was exceeded in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ended in June, by about $454 million

12:14 PM MDT on Sep 2, 2021


The Colorado State Capitol is seen on Thursday, August 19, 2021, in Denver. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado taxpayers will get a break on their income taxes and a refund payment because the state’s cap on government growth and spending under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was exceeded last fiscal year.

The income tax rate will drop to 4.5% in 2021, down from 4.55%, and individual taxpayers will get an additional sales tax refund payment, on average, of about $70. Joint filers will receive $166 on average.

“These tax cuts and refunds are a strong sign that Colorado’s economy is roaring back,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a written statement. “I’m excited that Coloradans will get another income tax cut and refund that Coloradans can put toward bouncing back from the pandemic, a night out, or groceries.” Continue reading

Aug 11

Mark Hillman: State Democrats ignore voters’ voices

Mark Hillman: State Democrats ignore voters’ voices

By MARK HILLMAN |

August 11, 2021 at 7:30 a.m.

Gov. Jared Polis and Progressive Democrat majorities at the Ssate Capitol have spent the past three years ignoring clearly-expressed voices of Colorado voters on tax and economic issues. In fact, Progressive Democrats’ disregard for many of the same voters who elected them has become so brazen that they seem to be daring voters to hold them accountable.

With commanding majorities of 41-24 in the House of Representatives and 20-15 in the state Senate, it’s understandable that Democrats are developing a sense of invincibility.

However, it remains to be seen if the Democrats’ recent surge — in 2017, they held a 34-31 margin in the House, while Republicans had an 18-17 majority in the Senate — is due to their own popularity or because Donald Trump irritated many Colorado voters.

In 2018, Colorado voters rejected (59%-40%) a tax increase to raise $700 million a year for highways and transportation. In that same election, voters said “no” (55%-45%) to draconian restrictions on oil and gas development across the state. Polis, campaigning for governor, claimed to oppose those severe oil-and-gas restrictions.

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Jul 24

2021 Colorado legislature’s new taxes bypass TABOR

2021 Colorado legislature’s new taxes bypass TABOR by Kevin Lundberg

 

Taxes and TABOR

As a part of my deeper dive into the 2021 bills that are now law, this week’s bills affecting taxes and TABOR are examined. In general, the bills which passed this year increased taxes and established new enterprises without calling for any constitutionally required votes from the people of Colorado.

This is far too predictable for the majority party. They use every trick in their playbook to wiggle around the clear intent of TABOR to require the people to vote on these significant new burdens on all citizens of Colorado.

However, there was one small bright spot I found.  SB-227 created the State Emergency Reserve Cash Fund, finally putting actual cash into the TABOR-required emergency fund. Since TABOR was created, nearly thirty years ago, the TABOR emergency reserve has been essentially ignored. Instead of actually setting aside cash as a reserve the legislature creatively designated assets, such as buildings as the “reserve” for emergencies. Finally, in this year, when the state coffers are full of federal debt dollars, they found some money to actually make a viable fund.

But the rest of the laws headed in the opposite direction Continue reading

Jun 16

Public Statement On The Hospital Provider Case

On Monday, June 14, the Colorado Supreme Court declined to consider the appeal of case brought by the TABOR Foundation, et. al. to stop the blatantly unconstitutional Hospital Provider tax and program.  That means the ruling of the lower Court of Appeals is the final say.

The original filing in June 2015 addressed the issue that the new bed tax was required to have voter approval under TABOR, but that the legislature had violated the citizen right.  Then in a related development, in 2017 state senator Jerry Sonnenberg revived the dormant senate bill 267 in the last few days of the session, enacting a host of terrible new laws, violating the single-subject rule and among many other bad ideas, opening $400 million/year in new taxation and spending without a TABOR vote.  Our case was amended (twice) to incorporate that abomination and we added many items to our request for remedy.

The trial court judge sat on the case for two years, not even scheduling a hearing.  Then he ruled against the citizens.  We appealed his decision.  The appeals panel found that no one had standing to sue, so prohibited the case from moving forward on the merits.  “It was as if the judges did not bother to read the written arguments or to care about the substance of the amended lawsuit,” said TABOR Committee chairman Penn Pfiffner.  “Their decision ignored all issues brought forward except for the imposition of the bed tax.  It was so insufficient, so lacking, as to be amateurish.  Unfortunately, the Colorado Supreme Court went along with the foolishness.”

Beyond adding up $400 million each year in new taxation and spending without the required vote of the people, it put the State into debt by $2 billion, which should also have required separate voter approval.  Imagine – taxpayers spend $400 million more each year and they don’t have standing!  The Court appears to have dropped any attempt to be true to the constitution and to respect that citizens are (supposed to be) in charge of their governments.

Jun 15

Colorado Supreme Court Rules On The Hospital Provider SB-267 Appeal

As the Colorado Supreme Court will not take up the appeal of the case, then the ruling of the lower Court of Appeals is the final say.  That panel found that the TABOR Foundation did not have standing and could not continue the case on the merits.  Imagine, taxpayers spend $400 million more each year and they don’t have standing!  The Court appears to have dropped any attempt to be true to the Colorado constitution and to respect that citizens are (supposed to be) in charge of their governments.

Order of Court–pet. for Cert.–tabor Found. v. Colorado by The Forum on Scribd

Jun 03

Interrogatory On House Bill 21-1164 TABOR Public School Finance Act

On May 24, 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court continued its crusade against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. It allowed the General Assembly, yet again, to maneuver around TABOR’s constitutional restrictions and effectively raise taxes without getting the required voter approval. The procedure used by the General Assembly was the unusual one of submitting Interrogatories to the Supreme Court, which ask whether their proposed scheme is allowed, prior to passing the law.

At issue were the mill levy rates in 174 separate school districts. The voters in all of these districts had, with varying language and circumstances, voted to exempt their districts from the necessity of returning excess revenues to their taxpayers.  The districts were then impacted by the Colorado Department of Education’s determination that, in order to prevent revenues from increasing, they had to lower their mill levies as property values increased, and therefore, property tax revenues increased.

The legislature proposed, and now has passed, a complex plan to eliminate tax credits, which it created just last year, gradually over the course of the next 19 years. Of course, the State imposition of higher mill levies and its elimination of tax credits will raise taxes. Given the increase in Colorado property values, the increases will be significant.

The TABOR Foundation, filed a friend of the court (“amicus”) brief, written by attorney Rebecca Sopkin.  The TABOR Foundation’s participation gave you a voice in this matter.  The filing protested this clear evasion of the requirement that voters approve any increases in their taxes.

Justice Brian Boatwright, in a well written dissent, pointed out that taxpayers “will see an increase in their mill levy rates as a result of” the proposed legislation, HB1164. He then noted that “[t]he voters today did not approve of this, and neither did the voters in the late 1990s.”  The court majority, however, disregarded the obvious impact of this legislation and gave its tax increases the green light.

Colorad Supreme Cout Opinion by The Forum on Scribd