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

Mar 03

What is House Bill 1187?

What is House Bill 1187?

HB1187 would allow the government budgets at all levels to grow much larger each year by changing the current growth formula of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  The current automatic increase uses the previous year’s budget and adds the growth in population plus inflation.[1]  Under the existing formula, Colorado’s State budget has grown an average of 4.7 percent a year for the past 25 years that TABOR has been in effect.

The new formula would replace the growth rate with the growth in personal income, averaged over five years.  With that substitution, the TABOR limit would soar.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa County).

 

A fatal flaw in the proposal.

This bill is a very sneaky effort to avoid the constitutional rules altogether.  The rules say that the state constitution cannot be changed by passing a law.  This proposed measure says it can change a foundational definition in the constitution with a new law.  It does not ask simply for the state to keep the excess of taxes collected for some number of years.  It is a permanent change in how each TABOR limit is set.  That’s a fundamental change to the constitution. Continue reading

Feb 24

Listen To The Alaska Legislature Hearing Testimony On TABOR

Penn Pfiffner, who is probably the foremost authority on TABOR in the state, a former Colorado legislator, and member of the TABOR Committee Board of Directors, will testify about this

Dear Mr. Pfiffner,

Thank you for speaking with me about logistics. Here are some of the things to keep in mind for remote testimony:

Time Allotted

We are anticipating 10-15 minutes for your testimony followed by an opportunity for committee members to ask questions. I anticipate that the Q&A segment will last anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

Committee Edict

At the beginning of the hearing Senator Dunleavy will introduce you. He will then ask you to state your name for the record and begin your testimony. Upon completing your prepared testimony we will allow time for questions. When a senator asks you a question you are able to respond to that individual “through the chair.” For example: Continue reading

Jan 01

Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Initiative 1 (1992)

The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), also known as Initiative 1, was on the November 3, 1992 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The famed measure, thought up by Douglas Bruce, requires statewide voter approval of tax increases that exceed an index created by combining inflation and population increases.

 

 

 

 

 

Text of measure

See also: Colorado State Constitution, Article X

The language appeared on the ballot as:[2]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution to require voter approval for certain state and local government tax revenue increases and debt; to restrict property, income, and other taxes; to limit the rate of increase in state and local government spending; to allow additional initiative and referendum elections; and to provide for the mailing of information to registered voters?

Aftermath

Kerr v. Hickenlooper

See also: Kerr v. Hickenlooper

A lawsuit regarding Initiative 1 will likely have far reaching effects for other TABOR laws around the country and direct democracy, in general. A lawsuit was filed with U.S. District Court in Denver, with plaintiffs arguing that the amendment is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed during the week of May 27, 2011, by 34 bipartisan plaintiffs, according to reports.

According to Doug Bruce, author of the citizen initiative, if the lawsuit is successful in its efforts, it could allow lawmakers unlimited power, and could be extremely detrimental to citizen initiative efforts in the state of Colorado. Bruce stated: “This isn’t only attacking Colorado. The consequences of a ruling in their favor would invalidate the Constitution in all 50 states, and would also mean no limits on the federal government. We would have anarchy.”

However, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, David Skaggs, stated that the measure limits state legislators and conflicts with both the state and United States constitutions. Skaggs also argues that other initiatives have been overturned, but that it did not negatively affect the process. Skaggs commented: “Courts won’t reach beyond the narrow question presented. Yes, we got to this issue by initiative”, but the lawsuit targets TABOR and not citizens’ initiatives.

The case’s impact expanded significantly due to the consideration of a Guarantee Clause argument. In 2012, Colorado District Court Judge William J. Martínez ruled in favor of allowing the case to proceed. However, Martínez’s ruling noted the history of seeing the Guarantee Clause as not justiciable or capable of judicial resolution, and said, “the Court determines that it cannot summarily conclude that Plaintiffs’ Guarantee Clause claim is per se non-justiciable”

The defense appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. In March 2014, the court ruled that the case was justiciable. The court further denied a petition for rehearing en banc in July 2014. Some consider the case likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

https://ballotpedia.org/Colorado_Taxpayer_Bill_of_Rights,_Initiative_1_(1992)

Dec 31

Legislative Session Kickoff and Award Recognition

CUT Membership Event
Legislative Session Kickoff  and Award Recognition

Award Winners:  Senate Champion Vicki Marble
House Champions Janak Joshi and Lori Saine
Senate Guardian Jerry Sonnenberg
House Guardian Stephen Humphrey

Guest Speakers: Senate President Kevin Grantham, House Assistant Minority Leader  Cole Wist

Where: Independence Institute Freedom Embassy
727 16th Ave. Denver,  CO (Free Parking) 

When: Thursday, January 19, 2017 Registration: 7:00am 

Cost is $15.00.  $5.00for those paying 2017  CUT membership

Breakfast treats by Chick-fil-A

RSVP: 303-747-2159 or rsvp@coloradotaxpayer.org

 

PO Box 1976, Lyons CO 80540  Taxpayer Hotline 303-494-2400

Web Site: www.coloradotaxpayer.org

Oct 13

EDITORIAL: TABOR lawsuit misguided

50354_2201459078_608064_nPUEBLO CITY Schools (D60) Board of Education has joined a lawsuit that would overturn the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Pueblo County District 70 joined the federal case earlier.

Educators have been led to believe that repealing TABOR’s state and local tax and spending restrictions would trickle down into more legislative funding of the public schools. Not so fast. The state’s recent budget history says otherwise.

Since approved by the voters in 1992, TABOR has done what it promised to do, which is to require voter approval before taxes can be raised and to tie revenue increases to Colorado’s overall economic growth unless voters permit.

In fact, state revenues and spending have increased every year under TABOR even under the cap of combined growth in population and inflation.

Continue reading

Oct 12

Letter: Don’t be misled by TABOR haters

In his Oct. 10 column, John Young got it wrong. Among the many poor interpretations he offers to oppose the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights is that it forces “crazy things like ask(ing) voters for permission to spend money they’ve authorized.” Much of his opinion piece attacks the part of TABOR that requires governments to get voter approval if the proponents of a tax increase don’t calculate the increase correctly.

However, that TABOR requirement leads directly to greater government accountability and transparency. That’s good.

Young misdirects his anger at the duplicate vote. He should instead direct his impatience at the inaccurate information offered by the tax increase proponents.

The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights requires that you know what the cost will be for any new program or expansion of an existing program. You can weigh whether the price is worth it. The voter then can make an informed decision.

No one wants to give proponents of any measure the incentive to underestimate the cost. Yet, if low-balling the cost helps the measure to pass, there would be pressure for proponents to fudge the numbers. Better to get it right.

Whenever government will grow faster than the automatic increases allowed every year, the voter should know by how much. Voters must demand strict accountability and honesty in creating the estimates. Don’t let tax increase proponents hide the real cost of the programs; don’t let Young mislead you.

There are people who want government to increase its reach into our lives and to spend more of your money on public goods; these folks will always oppose the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. Let them present their arguments fairly and truthfully, but they should not argue for eliminating honesty and accountability.

Penn R. Pfiffner, chairman of the TABOR Committee, is a former legislator who has been involved in fiscal policy issues for over three decades.