Nov 14

TABOR Hearing today update

 

This morning the TABOR Foundation brought a lawsuit before the Colorado Supreme Court.  As the Plaintiff, we have charged that both Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and its Scientific and Cultural Facilities District had violated the requirements of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights when they started imposing sales taxes on items that had been exempt; items that the Districts did not have voter approval to tax.  The arguments were presented on appeal to the State’s highest court.  Our Foundation was ably represented by attorney Steve Lechner of Mountain States Legal Foundation.  He faced alone the four attorneys employed by the governments on the other side.  Our side had lost at both the District (trial) level and at the Colorado Court of Appeals.

We knew going in that the Court is skewed to the Left and consistently finds reasons to subvert the clear language of TABOR.  One Justice, Gabriel, asked a hypothetical about getting broad-brush voter approval that, because as the Justice admitted, it was not applicable to this case.  Mr. Lechner nailed a question by Justice Marquez.  She had asked him if a precedent out of Mesa County could mean that the entire argument about voting on a tax policy change was irrelevant as long as revenues did not exceed the overall District TABOR limit.  Lechner cited to her chapter and verse on why the particulars of that precedent were wrong.

Steve Lechner also gave a summary that laid out the proper path for the Court to follow, showing that our lawsuit does not ask to have the statute declared unconstitutional, since it merely provides the necessary legislative permission for the newly imposed taxes.  We don’t even ask that the relevant statute be overturned; only that the Districts then take the next logical step and ask the voters for permission to impose those taxes.

In my experience, we will have to wait several months for a Ruling to be issued.  The TABOR Foundation thanks Mountain States Legal Foundation for its free representation and its thorough, excellent work.  Both organizations has seen this through as far as we can, and the Supreme Court’s ruling will conclude the issue.

Penn Pfiffner
Chairman, TABOR Committee

Nov 12

Opinion: The building blocks of TABOR

(Consider where the author is sitting before you evaluate where he is standing and espousing in his editorial–editor)

Opinion: The building blocks of TABOR

Say you had a box with a plant growing inside it. For reasons dark and twisted, the plant finds itself quite content to grow inside the black confines of the box. It gains inch after inch each week. Eventually, the plant runs out of room to grow but the box is a box. It can’t grow with the plant. The plant, doomed by its own prodigiousness, grows too big for its cramped home and crushes itself against the six walls of its cardboard prison.

TABOR

Courtesy of tookapic at Pixabay

So, what do plants and Colorado’s economy have in common? While I grant that it is a little melodramatic, I think it’s also an apt metaphor for the situation imposed by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

In 1992, Colorado voters approved adding an amendment to Colorado’s constitution that put a cap on how much revenue the state is allowed to collect through taxes. It also requires the state to authorize any new taxes directly through voters by means of a referendum process. Any amount above the cap is refunded to taxpayers. This mechanism allows me to feed into an unhealthy obsession with Legos every year, as my tax return checks can be quite generous. However, at the same time Colorado’s constitution has a requirement in it that requires the state to increase education spending to keep pace with inflation.

One great way to think of both tax and spending mechanisms is to think of TABOR as the brake and Amendment 23 as the gas. TABOR limits government growth and spending while Amendment 23 keeps a steady drip of cash flowing into government expenditures.

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Oct 04

TABOR questions stymie special Colorado legislative session

 TABOR questions stymie special Colorado legislative session

The biggest fight over whether to fix a drafting error in a state rural sustainability bill is whether the fix requires voter approval.

Senate Republicans are adamant that voters in affected special districts should weigh in. Democrats and those who have fought similar battles in the courts disagree.

Monday, the Legislature returned to the Capitol to fix a drafting error in Senate Bill 17-267, as ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who had signed the bill May 30.

The bill consolidated two sales taxes on recreational marijuana – a state tax of 2.9 percent and a special tax of 10 percent – and raised the tax to a voter-approved maximum of 15 percent.

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Oct 03

Rifts develop quickly during Colorado legislative special session

By
 –  Reporter, Denver Business Journal

Day one of the Colorado legislative special session ended with House Democrats advancing a bill to fix a mistake that could cost special districts as much as $6.9 million this year — but providing little reason to be optimistic that the measure can make it through the Republican-led Senate.

Legislators are grappling with a drafting error in the signature bill of the 2017 session that removed the ability of special districts to charge sales tax on retail marijuana, a gaffe that could leave districts a combined $6.9 million short on revenue this year if not fixed. The vast majority of that shortage — about $6 million — would be incurred by the Regional Transportation District that provides public transit in the Denver area.

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Oct 02

Program scheduled to explain tax issues, laws

A program to explain how the state budget works, how the Gallagher Amendment impacts property taxes and how the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) affects local government will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday at the Pueblo Convention Center.

The program, sponsored by the Pueblo West Citizens’ Council, will feature a presentation by the Colorado Fiscal Institute, an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank.

According to the institute’s website, it “provides credible, strategic, independent and accessible information and analysis of fiscal and economic issues facing Colorado. Our aim is to inform and influence public policy debates and contribute to sound decisions that improve the well-being of individuals, communities and the state as a whole.”

A spokeswoman for the Pueblo West Citizens’ Council said the event is being put on because the group believes “that ‘we the people’ do a much better job of governing ourselves when we have all the available information in its most basic form. The truth, without spin, without any hidden profit agenda or emotional bias, no grandstanding or campaigning.”

The event is free and open to the public.

http://www.chieftain.com/news/pueblo/program-scheduled-to-explain-tax-issues-laws/article_a1ab4e14-d2d5-5a94-be07-e170182dcef1.html

Oct 02

Taxpayers Have Their Own Bill of Rights in Colorado. But Who Benefits?

Taxpayers Have Their Own Bill of Rights in Colorado. But Who Benefits?

The unique anti-tax tool has defined spending in the state, and it may spread to more states.
BY  OCTOBER 2017

Anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce led the TABOR effort in 1992. “No one has had the impact on Colorado politics” that he has, according to one academic in the state. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

The blue tag on the streetlight outside Robert Loevy’s Colorado Springs home in 2010 didn’t signal an upcoming utility project. It was a receipt to show he had paid the $100 to keep his light on for the year. The city was facing a decimating $40 million budget gap and, among many other cuts, it was turning off one-third of its streetlights. That is, unless residents could come up with the money themselves. “I could afford to pay it,” Loevy says today, “but I have to think that would have been a stretch for many lower-income people.”

Loevy, a retired Colorado College professor, says the lights-out incident — which earned Colorado Springs international infamy that year — is just one of the many instances in which Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) has only benefited those taxpayers who can afford to pay for services out of their own pocket. Loevy has been a vocal critic of the law. As he sees it, “TABOR has had its worst effects on poor people.”

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Aug 10

TABOR Committee featured at national ALEC conference in Denver

TABOR Committee featured at national ALEC conference in Denver

Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) was in demand at the 44th Annual American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting held at the Hyatt Convention Center in Denver at the end of July. The TABOR Committee board of directors and friends presented the case (in a three hour workshop session) showing other states how to adopt measures similar to TABOR.  TABOR Committee Chairman Penn Pfiffner also addressed approximately 60 legislators and staff at a special session on July 28th concerning the importance of TABOR-like efforts in their own states.

TABOR is a Colorado constitution protection (approved by the voters of Colorado in 1992) that restrains tax increases to not greater than the sum of population growth and the rate of inflation without a vote of the people. It is the gold standard for all 50 states regarding sound fiscal responsibility. It protects the citizen’s right to be heard on tax increases that otherwise would not be subject to voter approval. It was because of TABOR that Colorado voters had the opportunity to recently reject two very large tax increases in Colorado. Amendment 66, a $1 billion tax increase proposal in 2013, and Amendment 69, a $25 billion tax increase proposal in 2016, were both soundly defeated at the ballot box by more than 60% of Colorado voters. TABOR made those votes possible.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States. ALEC provides a forum for state legislators and private sector members to collaborate on model bills—draft legislation that members may customize and introduce for debate in their own state legislatures. The ALEC annual meeting included keynote presentations by former US Speaker Newt Gingrich, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Colorado Congressman Ken Buck, Kentucky Governor Matthew Bevin, and other national leaders.

Please visit www.thetaborfoundation.org to learn more about TABOR and how you can help protect Colorado voter’s right to be heard.

May 11

Legislature dismantles Colorado Energy Office, passes major spending bill on final day

But the biggest agreement of the day came on SB 267, a bill that attempts to meet several of the most crucial needs in Colorado — increased road funding, stabilized funding for rural hospitals, a boost in funding for rural schools — as it also allows for more spending room in future budgets.

Several House Republicans blasted the bill, which largely was crafted by Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. They said it violated the Taxpayer’s Bills of Rights by not reducing the TABOR spending cap by as much as the cost of the roughly $800 million hospital provider fee program that it took out from under the cap and made into an enterprise.

Rep. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, said it also violated the legislative requirement to limit all bills to a single subject, even as it seemed to try to fill the needs of many sectors to grow their government funding.

“We work for the people,” Leonard told House members. “We do not work for the recipients of government money waiting for the trough to fill up with taxpayer money.”

But a number of other Republicans, who largely represent rural areas or are considered more moderate members of their caucus, said they backed the measure because the spending recipients needed the boost. They echoed arguments from the Colorado Hospital Association that between six and 12 rural hospitals could close if they lost the money originally projected to be taken from them in order to balance the budget next year.

And several blasted conservative organizations who have criticized them for going along with the plan, saying they are out of touch with constituents’ needs and are making the Legislature a place that is run by fear.

“I know by the time I get back to my desk, the Facebook posts will start. We’ve heard them already: ‘Squish, RINO,’” said Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, referring to the acronym some groups give to elected officials they consider to be Republican In Name Only.

“What’s not OK is that by the time I walk out of here, I will have earned myself a primary. But I am happy to be a ‘yes’ vote.”

Over the course of a turbulent 13-hour final day of the 2017 session Wednesday, the Colorado Legislature passed one the most wide-ranging omnibus spending bills in recent memory and then killed off the vast majority of functions of the Colorado Energy Office.

The 120th day of the first session of the 71st General Assembly began with broad bipartisan support over Senate Bill 267, a measure that saves Colorado hospitals from $528 million in funding cuts, dedicates $1.88 billion to highway projects, pares Medicaid spending and offers a personal property tax credit to businesses for their first $18,000 worth of business equipment.

– LEGISLATURE’S LAST DAY: Click above for Kathleen Lavine’s look at the session’s conclusion.

Despite protests from some Republicans that some of its spending maneuvers were unconstitutional, nearly half of the caucus joined with House Democrats in passing the bill by a 49-16 margin and sending it onto Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But that was about the only kumbaya moment of a day that descended into endless negotiations and then finger-pointing over two issues key to businesses in rural Colorado.

By the time the state House of Representatives adjourned at 9:39 p.m., the Legislature had rolled back a bill to increase funding for rural broadband.

No gas for Energy Office

They also had failed to pass a reauthorization bill for the Colorado Energy Office, meaning that the majority of the office’s functions and its 24-person staff will disappear July 1. Continue reading