Aren’t you glad we live in a state where, due to TABOR, politicians have to ask us before soaking hardworking taxpayers? I like to call it “consensual taxation.”
In 2013, Coloradans overwhelmingly defeated Amendment 66, which would have been a $1 billion annual tax increase. The politicians wanted this tax increase, but the voters said no by a margin of 66-34. Thanks to TABOR, they had to ask us. We said politely declined.
This November, we will have the opportunity to vote on Amendment 69, which would create a single-payer health plan in Colorado at the cost of a new 10% payroll tax. It’s been widely panned, even by the Democrats, including US Senator Michael Bennet.
The Colorado economy is booming now compared to during the recent recession, but because of a 26-year-old tax policy embedded in the Colorado Constitution (informally called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or “TABOR”), Colorado cannot invest all of its tax revenue to make up for cuts made during those harder economic times. Instead, the amendment says that all revenue collected above an out-of-date cap must be refunded to Colorado taxpayers. Each taxpayer received a refund of $13 to $41 this year, while our state continued to cut funds for basic infrastructure and services.
If you asked a bunch of Republican politicians for their favorite fiscal policy goals, a balanced budget amendment almost certainly would be high on their list.
This is very unfortunate. Not because a balanced budget amendment is bad, per se, but mostly because it is irrelevant. There’s very little evidence that it produces good policy.
Before branding me as an apologist for big government or some sort of fiscal heretic, consider the fact that balanced budget requirements haven’t prevented states like California, Illinois, Connecticut, and New York from adopting bad policy.
Or look at France, Italy, Greece, and other EU nations that are fiscal basket cases even though there are “Maastricht rules” that basically are akin to balanced budget requirements (though the target is a deficit of 3 percent of economic output rather than zero percent of GDP).
Indeed, it’s possible that balanced budget rules contribute to bad policy since politicians can argue that they are obligated to raise taxes. Continue reading →
Illinois politicians proved again in the spring 2016 legislative session that they are not interested in protecting the financial interests of Illinois taxpayers. As in previous legislative sessions, their familiar tax-and-spend proposals all centered around taking more money from Illinois taxpayers.
Illinoisans need a taxpayer bill of rights so that politicians must ask permission from voters if they want to raise taxes.
Colorado adopted a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, as an amendment to the Colorado Constitution. The Colorado TABOR requires any government to seek voter approval before imposing a new tax or raising existing tax rates. The TABOR also contains a formula that determines how much in taxes a government can collect in a year, based on increases in population and inflation. If more revenues are collected than the formula allows, then the governing entity is required to reimburse the excess money back to the taxpayers.
A provision in Colorado’s TABOR allows excess revenues to be kept by the government if the taxpayers give voter approval through a ballot initiative. Anytime there is a proposal to raise taxes or keep excess tax revenues, the ballot must provide the following: information on the governing entity’s current and previous four years of spending, the proposed tax increase in percentages and estimated dollar amounts, and summaries of support for and opposition to the proposed tax increase.
Over two decades have passed since Colorado voters adopted The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. TABOR allows government spending to grow each year at the rate of inflation-plus-population. Government can increase faster whenever voters consent. Likewise, tax rates can be increased whenever voters consent. This Issue Paper analyzes TABOR’s effect on state government spending and taxes by examining three decades: The 1983-92 pre-TABOR decade; the first decade of TABOR, 1993-2002; and the second decade, 2003-12. The final decade included the largest tax increase in Colorado history, enacted as Referendum C in 2005. Decade-2 was also marked by increasing efforts to evade TABOR by defining nearly 60% of the state budget as “exempt” from TABOR.
Tax-and-Spending Limitation Results
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Amendment has worked well to achieve its stated intention to “slow government growth.” Although government has still continued to grow significantly faster than the rate of population-plus-inflation, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights did partially dampen excess government growth. It did not cut or reduce reasonable government growth.
In terms of economic vitality, Colorado’s Decade-1 was best for Colorado. Unlike in the pre-TABOR decade, or in TABOR Decade-2 with its record increase in taxes and spending, because of Referendum C, Colorado’s first TABOR decade saw the state economy far outperform the national economy.
The 2016 Colorado legislative session may go down in history as the year of little change.
The politically divided chambers in the General Assembly resulted in neither party having much success with their lengthy agendas.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for political moderates or independents who don’t care about party agendas, but for everyone else, they’ve got something in the loss column this year.
That means 2017 won’t see major policy changes on things like clamping down on construction defects litigation or equal-pay legislation.
Here is a look at some of the winners and losers from the session, which concluded Wednesday:
The Joint Budget Committee
Any politician who can emerge from 120 days of politicking and still look like a high-functioning, level-headed individual. The three Democrats and three Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee received more than their share of accolades for crafting a 581-page budget that somehow managed to appease both sides. Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, led the committee to a $25.8 billion budget that averted major cuts and – perhaps more significantly – the gridlock all too common across the nation when politicians dig in their heals.
Colorado Legislators May Push HPF Through Constitutional Loophole
April 27, 2016
A bill that would exempt Colorado’s Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) program from the state constitution’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has advanced to hearings on the House floor.
The House Committee on Appropriations voted 7–6 on March 29 to refer House Bill 1420, sponsored by House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder County) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa County), to the Committee of the Whole.
HB 1420 would establish the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (CHASE) as a government-owned business to administer the state’s HPF. HPF is the vehicle by which Colorado expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 and by which the state collected almost $700 million in revenue the following year.
CHASE’s designation as an “enterprise” would exempt the program from the state constitution’s TABOR, which mandates voters shall decide at the ballot whether Colorado must refund to taxpayers surplus revenue collected by the state, except when the surplus comes from a state “enterprise.”
If passed, CHASE will take effect on July 1, 2016, provided the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determine the program complies with federal law, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute, says the bill manipulates the meaning of “enterprise” in order to circumvent the state’s constitution.