Mar 27

Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act

As an interesting side note, while TABOR is well-known in Colorado, relatively few states have a similar government spending limit mechanism in their constitutions.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) actually has a model bill that is based on Colorado’s TABOR amendment that lawmakers in other states can pick up, make minor changes to, and introduce in their own jurisdictions.  We would bet there are constituents in many states who would appreciate a cap on their legislature’s wanton spending.

http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/tax-and-expenditure-limitation-act/

Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act

Summary

The Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act recognizes the important tradeoff between constraints on the growth of state and local government, and the provision of adequate reserves to meet emergencies and to stabilize budgets over the business cycle. The Act is a constitutional provision designed to accomplish these objectives. The Act links a tax and spending limit to an emergency reserve fund and a budget stabilization fund. The Act also provides for temporary reductions in tax rates and/or tax rebates when surplus revenue accumulates above the tax and spending limit, and the cap on the emergency reserve fund and the budget stabilization reserve fund.

Model Policy

{Title, enacting clause, etc.}

Section 1. {Election Provisions} For any fiscal year that commences on or after____ state and local government districts must have voter approval in advance for any new tax rate increase, mill levy above that for the prior year, valuation for assessment ratio increase for a property class, or extension of an expiring tax, any markup on products sold through state-controlled enterprises, or a tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district. Voter approval is also required for creation of any multi-fiscal year direct or indirect district debt or other financial obligation without adequate present cash reserves pledged irrevocably and held for payments in all future years, except for refinancing district bonded debt at a lower interest rate or adding new employees to existing district pension plans. Voter approval is also required for suspension of the spending limits imposed by this Act. Continue reading

Mar 10

Lessons from 30 Years of TEL Experience

Yes, you can get involved in your city or state.  TABOR gives citizens the right to vote yes or no on the government increasing your taxes.  To learn more, send an email to info@theTABORcommittee.com

The first tax and expenditure limitation (TEL) was proposed by California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. In the years since then, numerous states have adopted TELs. By studying these laws, we have discovered principles and design concepts for effective tax limitation.

State TELS

In spring 1978, under the leadership of State Rep. David Copeland, the people of Tennessee adopted the first constitutional tax limitation measure in the nation, the work product of a state constitutional convention.

Then came Proposition 13 in California in June 1978. While not itself a TEL (it was primarily a limitation on the growth of property taxes), Prop. 13 was the catalyst that ignited a national tax revolt. Things began to happen quickly across the country:

  • Arizona, under the leadership of then-Senate Majority Leader Sandra Day O’Connor, adopted a TEL referendum in 1978.
  • In November 1978, Michigan adopted the Headlee Amendment, which restricted state spending as a share of personal income.
  • In 1979, California adopted a Prop. 1-type TEL (the Gann Limit) that for the first time limited the growth of state spending by measuring it against inflation and population or per-capita personal income growth, instead of a percentage of state personal income growth, which really tightened the year-over-year control over taxes and government spending.
  • Also in 1979, Washington State adopted a TEL (Initiative 62).
  • In 1980, Missouri adopted the Hancock Amendment, again using a percentage of state personal income growth as the measure.
  • In 1980, Massachusetts’s Prop. 2 ½ drew heavily on the language of California’s Prop. 1 in order to control the growth of local governments.

Lessons Learned

Many other states have since adopted constitutional or statutory controls. But many were not tough enough or sufficiently well enforced or honored to be effective. Circumvention began in earnest in Missouri as the legislature and courts played games with the revenue base and school financing. In California in 1989, wily Assembly Speaker Willie Brown corrupted the Gann Limit formula in a statewide initiative devoted to improving California’s roads and highways. Continue reading

Dec 16

Ahead of second term, Hickenlooper strikes sober tone on state budget needs

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday delivered his fourth State of the State address. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

A month before his second term, Gov. John Hickenlooper is painting a bleak picture of Colorado’s future budget situation, even as he touts the state’s improving economic fortunes.

“We are going to have real difficult challenges in terms of how we address pretty much any basic infrastructure (spending need): transportation, K-12 education, higher education, healthcare,” he told the Denver Forum at a luncheon Tuesday. “Some of the things we’ve taken for granted and counted on in terms of our quality of life, we probably won’t be able to continue to afford.”

The reason for the strife, as the Democrat made clear, is the state’s constitutional spending limit known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. It’s politically volatile to point the finger at TABOR and Hickenlooper sought to walk a fine line as he raised the stakes.

Next year, Colorado lawmakers are anticipating budgeting taxpayer refunds because the state’s revenues are exceeding the inflation-plus-population-growth-cap for the first time in 15 years.

Unless lawmakers seek to keep the money (which is an idea being floated at the Capitol), the refunds will go out the door even as the state struggles to meet its constitutional requirement to fund education under what is known as Amendment 23. The state is short $900 million on education funding, according to analysts.

“Amendment 23 requires us to spend more. TABOR requires us to spend less. It really is a Gordian knot,” he said.

Hickenlooper expects this to come to a head two years from now, when refunds are expected to continue and grow.

Continue reading

Nov 27

California’s experience makes economic, political benefits of Colorado’s TABOR clear

Rapid growth in the Colorado economy will increase state revenue in excess of the TABOR limit. Colorado’s TABOR constitutional amendment limits the growth of state revenue to the sum of population growth plus inflation; surplus revenue above that limit must be refunded to taxpayers.

Legislative analysts estimate $137 million in TABOR refunds for the next fiscal year. In the following year the state must offset surplus revenue with a temporary income tax rate reduction estimated at $234 million. Given the range of error in these estimates, the average Colorado household should expect to get somewhere between $50 and $100 per year in TABOR refunds.

Continue reading

Mar 15

Colorado residents may get a refund for pot tax

Why this pot business deodorizes its cash 

Why this pot business deodorizes its cash
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Colorado residents could see some green in their pockets thanks to the new recreational marijuana taxes.

Budget advisers to the state legislature crunched the numbers and revealed the state could be forced to refund as much as $100 million to taxpayers.

The state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, known as TABOR, sets limits on taxes and government spending. If the government collects more than expected, it generally owes taxpayers a refund.

But Colorado taxpayers shouldn’t expect a refund check in the mail. The state has several other procedures to handle a refund.

The state could provide taxpayers a credit on the next year’s tax bill, for example, or reduce the sales tax. Continue reading

Mar 14

The Tenth Circuit’s Punt in Kerr v. Hickenlooper Opens the Door for a Torrent of Litigation

In 1992 the people of Colorado voted to amend their Constitution with adoption of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). This was a historic initiative that put the power in the hands of the people to decide for themselves whether to approve new taxes or tax-hikes. While many states have constitutional protections to prevent new or increased taxes—such as California’s requirement of a supermajority vote in the legislature—Colorado’s TABOR was unique in that it made the citizens of the state the final word on new taxes or increased taxes. TABOR therein served as a model that has been implemented through constitutional amendments in other states, and which NFIB has supported as a means of protecting small business owners from new and ingenious taxing schemes. But TABOR is under attack—and this may have profound implications, not only in Colorado but throughout the country.

TABOR’s Legal Challenges

TABOR was upheld as constitutional in the Colorado Supreme Court last year in the face of a lawsuit advanced by educators and the parents of school-aged children who complained that TABOR makes it harder for schools to get necessary funding. NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed in that case to defend the law, and we were pleased to see the Court ultimately affirm the constitutionality of TABOR. But TABOR faces yet another challenge—this time in federal court. Continue reading

Mar 13

Colorado legislators grapple with pot-tax refund issue

Colorado lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee expressed frustration Wednesday that even though the state’s voters approved taxes on retail marijuana sales as required under the Taxpayer’s Bill of rights, some of that revenue might have to be refunded under TABOR if more taxes are collected than officials estimated.

JBC staff delivered a 100-page report to legislators outlining most of the scenarios that could occur of if the state collects more than the official $67 million estimate for the first full fiscal year of recreational pot sales, from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015.

That estimate was given to voters in the official voters pamphlet — known as the Blue Book — last fall, which explained Proposition AA, the new taxes established for retail marijuana sales. That booklet estimated likely revenue from new pot taxes at $67 million in the first full year. (The ballot language itself pegged predicted tax revenue at $70 million.)

Most current estimates, however, show the state will likely collect far more than $67 million.

The report outlines three courses of action:

– Wait to see how much tax is collected, then ask voters to let the state keep any excesses;

– Send a refund of any taxes collected above the estimate; or,

– Attempt to reduce the 15 percent excise tax on wholesale sales and 10 percent special sales tax in order to keep the amounts collected under $67 million.

“This is a bizarre result that we’d have to refund all that tax money just because what we asked for [was an estimate] in a year when this is going to be a growing industry,” said JBC Vice Chairman Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, at a meeting of the budget panel Wednesday.

“It’s been the will of the people who passed TABOR,” said JBC Chairwoman Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver. Continue reading

Nov 17

Colorado Voters’ Power of the Purse

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Current and former lawmakers are taking the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to court for a second opinion.

Workers install a large U.S. flag and a Colorado State Seal on the west side of the Capitol in Denver on Friday, January 7, 2011, as part of the decoration for the inauguration of Governor-elect John Hickenlooper.

Many states have provisions designed to limit the amount of taxes their legislatures can raise, but only Colorado has gone so far as to pass the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Known as TABOR, Colorado’s unique constellation of confusing laws prevents the state legislature from raising taxes without public approval and caps the amount the government can spend in a way that’s designed to shrink it over time. All levels of government—city, county, and state—are limited in what they can spend by a complicated formula, which basically indexes revenue to inflation plus population growth. If the tax revenues the state and local governments collect in any given year are higher than the cap, which happens in good economic times or when there is an influx of new residents, states and cities are required by law to refund taxpayers. Over the years, more than 80 cities have passed local referendums to relieve their governments from some of the burdens of TABOR. Last week, Denver voters passed, by a margin of 74 percent to 26 percent, a referendum that allows the city to keep the surplus money it has already collected and spend it. The referendum they voted for is called “de-Brucing,” named after the law’s anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce. (On the state level, a de-Brucing referendum passed in 2005.) The city argued that without de-Brucing, it would no longer be able to provide basic city services; it hadn’t trained a new firefighter or police officer class in four years. Continue reading