Apr 20

Colorado’s Budget Settled, But Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds

Colorado’s Budget Settled, Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds « CBS Denver .

Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, want the fee set aside to avoid refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, free millions of dollars for Colorado’s underfunded roads and schools, and give momentum to pending ballot initiatives that would ease TABOR’s grip on state finances.

It’s a debate that some thought settled well before both chambers approved the $27 billion budget last week. Not so, said Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat.

“In this budget we managed to get by, but next year it will be twice as bad with cuts in education and higher education,” she said. The House could debate her bill this week.

Hullinghorst said reclassifying the fee can provide at least five years’ flexibility to spend more on schools and roads, and tackle TABOR and other constitutional restrictions on budget writers’ room to maneuver.

TABOR requires refunds whenever total state income surpasses a cap that’s based on inflation and population, not the economy’s performance.

 

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Mar 30

Business leaders battle Republican lawmaker in hospital-fee bill hearing

Business leaders battle Republican lawmaker in hospital-fee bill hearing

Colorado business leaders charged into the state Capitol Tuesday to advocate for a newly introduced change in the hospital provider fee that they believe will increase funding for transportation and education — and ran right into a key Republican legislator who questioned whether they would be taking revenues illegally from companies and individuals that need them more.

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst’s long-planned bill to pull some $700 million out from under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue cap and turn it into an enterprise fund received its first hearing in the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, one day after it was introduced.

Committee Democrats passed it onto the House floor over the objections of Republicans, the first of several steps in what is expected to be a weeks-long fight over one of the most watched measures of this legislative session.

The seven-year-old provider fee charges hospitals for each night a bed is occupied, leverages that money to get an equal amount of federal matching funds and expands the eligibility of childless adults for Medicaid, reducing the burden of uncompensated care on hospitals.

By turning the fee into an enterprise, it frees a lot more room for the state to collect new revenues without reaching its TABOR cap and having to give back any excess money as tax refunds.

 

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Mar 30

Bipartisan Hospital Provider Fee Bill Introduced At Colorado Capitol

Bipartisan Hospital Provider Fee Bill Introduced At Colorado Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol.

(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

State lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would eliminate tax refunds and give the state more money to spend.Colorado is collecting so much money that it has to send some of it back to residents, as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But Democrats say there’s a big pot of money in the state budget that shouldn’t count toward the TABOR limit. It’s a fee hospitals pay that the state spends on expanding health coverage for the poor.

The new bill changes how the state accounts for this fee, making it exempt from TABOR. That would effectively allow the state to hold onto hundreds of millions of dollars it would otherwise have to pay out in tax rebates.

A separate measure, which would only apply to next year, directs lawmakers to spend the extra money on transportation, local governments, and schools.

The fee-change bill has bipartisan sponsorship. Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican, says the change could help rural hospitals in his southeastern district.

However the Republicans who control the state Senate strongly oppose the reclassification, calling it an end-run around TABOR.

House Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst said she tried to work with Senate leaders.

“There didn’t seem to be a way that we could get together,” she said. “And I felt that we had to move forward.”

– See more at: https://www.cpr.org/news/newsbeat/bipartisan-hospital-provider-fee-bill-introduced-colorado-capitol#sthash.0JGvqvqF.dpuf

Mar 30

Speaker: Talks on proposal to eliminate TABOR refunds at a stalemate

Speaker: Talks on proposal to eliminate TABOR refunds at a stalemate

Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder was nominated as majority leader during the Colorado House of Representatives Democratic Caucus at the state Capitol in Denver, CO, Thursday November 8, 2012. Democrats took back the majority in the House after Tuesday’s election, and will have a 37-28 majority when the session opens in January. Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

DENVER – The speaker of the Colorado House said negotiations have reached a “stalemate” on a long-debated and highly anticipated proposal to retain more state revenue through an accounting change that would eliminate TABOR refunds in future years.

The prospects for the bills Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst introduced Monday are poor in the Republican-dominated Senate.

One of the bills reauthorizes a fee charged on hospital stays so that millions of dollars go into an enterprise fund that is exempt from the spending limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The other bill spends the revenue the state would retain if the first bill passes.

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Mar 26

Colorado’s provider ‘fee’: Even the federal government knows its a tax

March 25, 2016 12:22 PM· By Linda Gorman

In 2009, the Democrats controlling Colorado state government wanted more money. Among other things, they wanted to expand Medicaid. They needed to increase state revenues. Their problem was that the Colorado Constitution requires a vote on new state taxes and the U.S. was in the depths of a severe economic downturn.

icon_blog_noteState officials knew that a new tax would never be approved by a popular vote. To get around both the letter and the spirit of their constitutional duty, they simply labeled the provider tax a “fee” and imposed it. Fees do not require a vote.

Today that tax badly disguised as a fee is raising $688 million in additional revenues that is counted towards the total amount of tax revenue that the state is allowed to keep under the Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

 

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Mar 25

Colorado budget bill eliminates TABOR refunds, slashes spending

Hospitals and road construction take a hit, but budget writers warn it could have been far worse

(Denver Post file)

Facing a money crunch, Colorado lawmakers resorted to extraordinary feats to craft a $27 billion budget bill Thursday, eliminating a $59 million taxpayer refund, slashing $73 million of payments to hospitals and cutting $50 million for road construction.

Even then, budget writers needed to pull millions from other cash accounts and tap reserves to balance the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But the moves prevented even deeper spending cuts to classrooms, college campuses and health care providers that Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed in his budget plan.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story:

 

Mar 20

Low state revenues may mean no TABOR refunds next year

Low state revenues may mean no TABOR refunds next year

2016_Legislature_LOGOS

DENVER — State revenues have dropped off a bit, enough that it could prevent an automatic refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state economists told lawmakers on Friday.

Projections for the next fiscal year are expected to be down by about $111 million, meaning the state likely won’t reach the revenue cap that automatically triggers a refund under TABOR as had been expected from the last forecast in December, the Colorado Legislature’s chief economist, Natalie Mullis, told members of the Joint Budget Committee.

“We did lower our expectations for general fund revenue,” Mullis said. “In December, we expected that general fund revenue would grow by 1.8 percent this year, which is actually negative if you adjust for population growth and inflation. It’s slowed down a little bit to 1.5 percent in this revenue forecast. That impacts the bottom line.”

In her forecast for the first quarter of 2016, Mullis said that the national and state economies expanded last year, but slowed somewhat in the second half of 2015. Continue reading

Mar 05

Republican leader: TABOR issue rides on who should decide

Rep. Brian DelGrosso. R-Loveland

Rep. Brian DelGrosso,
R-Loveland

House Republican leader Brian DelGrosso of Loveland said it’s time for “honest fiscal policy” and not TABOR accounting gimmicks to pay for Colorado’s roads and bridges.

DelGrosso has penned an editorial laying out his — and presumably the Republican caucus’ — position on a Democratic plan to reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee to get it out from under a revenue cap voters approved in 1992 when they added the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to the state constitution.

The move also would negate state refunds worth between about $37 up to $111 per taxpayer next year.

“Taking more money from taxpayers without their consent will not solve our challenges,” DelGrosso writes. “We have the money and our budget is growing, but using some budget maneuver is definitely no substitute for honest fiscal policy.”

 

To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

Mar 05

TABOR Refunds Targeted By Proposed Ballot Measure

Dan Ritchie, former chancellor of the University of Denver and current co-chair of Building a Better Colorado, announces a push to get a measure on the 2016 ballot that would allow state government to keep more revenue.

Tax refunds or more money for schools and roads? That’s how a coalition frames a debate it hopes to spark in Colorado.

A group of bipartisan civic leaders announced Friday that it’s starting a campaign to get a measure on the 2016 ballot asking voters to ease a revenue cap on state government.

“We are really determined to get something done about this,” said Dan Ritchie, co-chair of Building a Better Colorado, a nonpartisan coalition that toured the state having conversations about Colorado’s political system and constitution.

If passed, the measure’s backers say state funds could be spent fixing potholes and reducing class sizes in schools instead of being refunded to taxpayers.

“Our education needs are not being met and we are not maintaining our road system and streets,” said Ritchie, after making the announcement at Great Education Colorado’s annual conference. “We should be planning for the future in 20 years and that applies to our kids, not just our roads.”

Supporters acknowledge that such a measure wouldn’t fix an underlying structural problem with Colorado’s budget.

“[But] the first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging,” said Lisa Weil, who directs Great Education Colorado, a non-profit that advocates for more funding for public schools.

The ballot initiative will likely draw opposition from advocates of small government who support the revenue cap. And backers will need to collect 98,000 signatures to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

That group’s leaders say the state’s financial future is at stake.

At meetings held across the state last summer, they focused on problems they see with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights — TABOR. Voters enshrined the measure in the state constitution in 1992 as a way to limit the growth of government.

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Mar 02

Blake: Funding transportation needs adds fuel to the fire

Blake: Funding transportation needs adds fuel to the fire

File photo: Todd Shepherd

File photo: Todd Shepherd

If you are looking for an opportunity to pay higher taxes, this is your year.

Already on Colorado’s 2016 ballot is a single-payer health plan that would boost the state income tax rate to 14.63 percent, highest in the nation.

On its heels comes a planned initiative sponsored by the Colorado Contractors Association, which wants more money to build roads and mass transit projects.

Not by increasing the state gasoline tax, now 22 cents a gallon, but by increasing the state sales tax, now 2.9 percent, by up to three-quarters of a cent.

The final figure has yet to be determined, said Bill Ray, spokesman for the planned initiative. The organizers have until March 25 to propose their final ballot language.

They are working backwards from a goal of raising $500 million to $600 million more per year, which under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has to be listed on the ballot question. They will consider the state’s current revenue stream and then figure out how much higher the tax rate must be to raise the money.

If taxes are a must, user-pay levies are generally considered the fairest. Those who drive their cars over the roads pay their taxes at the pump. Those who don’t drive don’t have to pay.

But earlier polling by the CCA determined that an increase in the gasoline tax would be “roundly rebuffed” by voters, said Ray.

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