Dec 23

Hospital Provider Fee Lawsuit Update

Where do we stand today on the Hospital Provider charge lawsuit?

There has been a flurry of activity.  The original lawsuit (“Complaint”) languished in the Court without resolution for more than 18 months.  Then, late in the session the legislature passed the infamous SB267, which among other steps, increased future state taxes up to $400 million per year without voter approval, and moved the Hospital Provider Fund off the books and supposedly redefined that welfare program as a government business.

The TABOR Foundation’s attorneys at Mountain States filed an amended Complaint to address the additional unconstitutional provisions of SB267.  More recently Mountain States met the deadlines imposed by the Court for any further amendments.  The revised Complaint (attached here) broadens the parties with standing to include individuals who paid the Hospital Provider charge, Rebecca Sopkin and Scott Rankin, and added the Colorado Union of Taxpayers; a change that the Board approved earlier this year.   There was some refinement of the arguments.

Some uncertainty exists about how the lawsuit will proceed.  There is a Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss that will probably be addressed in January.  However, the Court has allowed the lawsuit to proceed, so Steve Lechner will simultaneously be preparing the case for the June Hearing.  Motions for discovery were issued timely and Defendants’ (now both the State and the Hospital Association) information will be gathered.

Stay tuned; this lawsuit is now moving along quickly.

Penn R. Pfiffner

Nov 07

Reflections on 25 years of TABOR in Colorado

Reflections on 25 years of TABOR in Colorado

Friday marked 25 years since the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution in 1992

By Julia RentschReporter-Herald Staff Writer

Posted:   11/06/2017 11:07:03 PM MST

TABOR timeline

• 1992 — Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amends Section 20 Article X of the Colorado Constitution

• 2000 — Amendment 23 for education spending increases

• 2005 — Ballot measure Referendum C loosens some TABOR restrictions for five years

• 2006 — TABOR measures rejected by voters in Maine, Nebraska, Oregon

• 2011 — State Sen. Andy Kerr and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst lead suit against TABOR

• 2014 — Kerr v. Hickenlooper confirms general assembly has standing to challenge the constitutionality of TABOR

• 2015 — U.S. Supreme Court returns Kerr & Hullinghorst case to 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

• 2017 — House Bill 17-1187 to change excess state revenues cap growth factor introduced

Both Sam Mamet and Larry Sarner acutely remember the moment that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Act was amended to the Colorado Constitution. The difference: One man hated the amendment’s restrictions, while the other saw them as democratically vital.

Friday marked exactly 25 years since the election in which the amendment was added to the state constitution — Nov. 3, 1992. The measure took effect Dec. 31, 1992, and serves as a way to limit the growth of government by requiring increases in overall revenue from taxes not exceed the rates of inflation and population growth.

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Oct 04

Republicans block pot-tax fix in Colorado Legislature’s special session

By   –  Reporter, Denver Business Journal
 Updated 

Colorado state Senate Republicans killed a second attempt Tuesday to re-establish a tax that could cost special districts some $6.9 million this fiscal year and then adjourned what might have been the least productive special session in the history of the state Legislature.

The final gavel, which came down at 2:23 p.m., ended two official days and several unofficial weeks of wrangling over whether the Legislature could fix an error it made in Senate 267 — the omnibus bill from the 2017 regular legislative session that boosted transportation funding, reduced business personal property taxes and freed up room under the state’s revenue cap by turning the hospital provider fee into an enterprise fund.

The error occurred when the bill inadvertently eliminated the ability for special districts to levy sales taxes on retail marijuana — a change that most affected the Regional Transportation District, which is slated to lose $6 million through June 30 because of it.

Legislative Democrats, with the backing of Gov. John Hickenlooper, offered two bills during the two-day special session that sought to clarify that special districts do have the ability to collect sales taxes on that uniquely Colorado project.

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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 02

Douglas Bruce addresses the Special Session called this week by Governor Hickenlooper

From: Douglas Bruce <Taxcutter@msn.com>

To: “randy.baumgardner.senate@state.co.us

<randy.baumgardner.senate@state.co.us>, “john.cooke.senate@state.co.us

<john.cooke.senate@state.co.us>, “don.coram.senate@state.co.us

<don.coram..senate@state.co.us>, “larry.crowder.senate@state.co.us

<larry.crowder.senate@state.co.us>, “bob.gardner.senate@state.co.us

<bob.gardner.senate@state.co.us>, “President Kevin J. Grantham”

<kevin.grantham.senate@state.co.us>, “owen.hill.senate@state.co.us

<owen.hill.senate@state.co.us>, “chris.holbert.senate@state.co.us

<chris.holbert.senate@state.co.us>, “kent.lambert.senate@state.co.us

<kent.lambert.senate@state.co.us>, Senator Kent Lambert

<senatorlambert@comcast.net>, “kevin@kevinlundberg.com

<kevin@kevinlundberg.com>, “kevin.lundberg.senate@state.co.us

<kevin.lundberg.senate@state.co.us>, “vicki.marble.senate@state.co.us

<vicki.marble.senate@state.co.us>, “beth.martinezhumenik.senate@state.co.us

<beth.martinezhumenik.senate@state.co.us>, “tim..neville.senate@state.co.us

<tim.neville.senate@state..co.us>, “kevin.priola.senate@state.co.us

<kevin.priola.senate@state.co.us>, “ray.scott.senate@state.co.us

<ray.scott.senate@state.co.us>, “jim.smallwood.senate@state.co.us

<jim.smallwood.senate@state.co.us>, “senatorsmallwood@gmail.com

<senatorsmallwood@gmail.com>, “senatorsonnenberg@gmail.com

<senatorsonnenberg@gmail.com>, “jack.tate.senate@state.co.us

<jack.tate.senate@state.co.us>

To all 18 Republican senators,

You are the only barrier to yet another TABOR violation. Just like the U. S. Senate on health insurance, we know 90% unanimity is not enough; you must be 100% united and show the public and your constituents it means something to be a Republican.

House Democrats and the governor are united in this latest effort to destroy TABOR. They will support any illegal action that puts government first and taxpayers last.

Even 17 GOP senators are not enough to prevent passing this “fix” that has already cast legislators into disrepute and ridicule. Continue reading

Oct 02

Colorado Legislature’s special session this week could aid special districts — or go up in flames

By
 –  Reporter, Denver Business Journal

Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special legislative in mid-September, arguing it was the “most expedient way” to fix an error in the centerpiece bill of 2017 that will cost a number of special districts, including Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.

But what may have seemed a simple and expedient way to restore funding that those districts expected to get has turned into a political firestorm that, in all likelihood, will not get solved in the abbreviated session.

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Oct 02

Pending Court Cases Ask The Question: What’s The Difference Between A Tax And A Fee

Pending Court Cases Ask The Question: What’s The Difference Between A Tax And A Fee

By Angie Haflich Sep 20, 2017

What’s the difference between a tax and a fee?

As The Denver Post reports, that’s the question being asked in three major court cases in Colorado.

In one case, a small business coalition is arguing that the Secretary of State’s office has been illegally using business filing fees to cover the cost of a myriad of government services that are completely unrelated to those fees.

A more significant case involves the TABOR Foundation’s challenge of the constitutionality of a $264 million hospital fee that is matched by the federal government for uncompensated medical care.

The other case involves a 20-cent surcharge on grocery bags.

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, requires voter approval to raise taxes but since it was passed in 1992, lawmakers have turned to fees to fund some services because fees don’t require voter approval.

The outcome of the cases could result in a change that would require voter approval for fees, as well.

 

http://hppr.org/post/pending-court-cases-ask-question-whats-difference-between-tax-and-fee

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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Sep 19

Court fight over bag fee could change state finance

Some of the most consequential fights over Colorado government finance in the coming years won’t happen at the state legislature or at the ballot box, but in a courtroom, where fiscal conservatives and business groups are contesting government fees of as little as 20 cents.

In Aspen, a taxpayer advocacy group is fighting a 20-cent surcharge on grocery bags in a lawsuit that’s now gone all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

At the state government level, a small business coalition is arguing that the secretary of state’s office for decades has been illegally using business filing fees to finance a slew of unrelated government services.

And — perhaps most significantly — the TABOR Foundation is challenging the constitutionality of a $264 million hospital fee that generates another $264 million in matching funds from the federal government to pay for uncompensated care.

At issue in each of these cases is a seemingly simple question: What’s the difference between a tax and a fee?

But no matter how small some of the contested fees are, the answer could have wide-ranging consequences for taxpayers and virtually every level of Colorado government.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story on TABOR:

Aug 07

Colorado Court Grants Taxpayers’ Motion as to Healthcare Tax

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Colorado Court Grants Taxpayers’ Motion as to Healthcare Tax

July 27, 2017 – DENVER, CO. A Colorado group that defends the rights of taxpayers today celebrated the ruling by a Denver District Court accepting its amended and supplemental complaint against Colorado agencies and their officials for violating the Colorado Constitution’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
 
The TABOR Foundation filed its motion on June 30, 2017. Two years earlier, on June 26, 2015, the TABOR Foundation filed its initial lawsuit charging its members should have been allowed to vote on whether a “hospital provider fee” may be imposed on Colorado hospitals; since 2009 Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has collected tens of millions and perhaps even a hundred million dollars.
 
Federal law lets States impose healthcare assessments to pay for Medicaid services, but the regulations provide for “taxes” and not “fees” as Colorado calls them to avoid TABOR. Although the 2009 act says the funds will be kept separate from the general fund, in fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 some of the tax proceeds were put in the general fund.
 
The TABOR Foundation sought an end to the tax and refund of revenues collected, with interest, as required by TABOR. As of October 16, 2015, a motion by the Colorado defendants to dismiss the lawsuit had been briefed fully. On May 30, 2017, however, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law S.B. 17-267, which created the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise to administer the Hospital Provider Charge beginning on July 1, 2017. All of the TABOR Foundation’s 2015 claims remain virtually identical, except for the new challenge to creation of the “Enterprise.”

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