Oct 06

Lawmakers struggle with the politics of state’s budget

Lawmakers struggle with the politics of state’s budget

Health care advocates like it. So do crusaders of more funding for transportation and education.

Some Colorado lawmakers believe they can fix the state’s most immediate budget issues to meet those needs by making what, on the surface, appears to be an innocuous change in how the state accounts for a fee on hospitals to fund health programs for the poor.

What they want is to take that charge — called the hospital provider fee — out from under the revenue caps mandated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and call that program a standalone government enterprise, something allowed for under the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment that limits how much money the state can collect.

Doing so isn’t as easy as all that, however, because it would negate any TABOR refunds for years to come, turning the issue into more of a political question than one of policy.

REFUND, OR NO REFUND?

Some Republicans inside the statehouse say they have committed to taxpayers that they will refund money when state revenues exceed TABOR limits, something that will happen starting next year. Continue reading

Oct 06

Explaining the Hospital Provider Fee proposal

The Hospital Provider Fee was created by an act of the Colorado Legislature in 2009 to help provide health care to those who can’t afford their own medical coverage and were not already qualified for Medicaid.

It is assessed on hospitals based on the number of patients they have, and is used to offset the cost of Medicaid programs, meaning some of the money is returned to the hospitals based on statewide provider rates.

The Legislature uses the fee to maximize how much it gets from the federal government to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Since it was enacted, more than 300,000 Coloradans who couldn’t afford health care now have coverage either through Medicaid or the state’s Child Health Plan Plus.

Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state revenues from virtually all sources, taxes and fees are limited year over year depending on population and inflation. But some revenues can be exempt from those limits if they are used for a specific purpose and get less then 10 percent of their revenues from tax dollars. Most universities, for example, are considered standalone enterprises, something TABOR allows, and aren’t subject to its revenue limits.

The proposal to take the provider fee out from under TABOR would work just like that. It would make the Hospital Provider Fee Fund its own enterprise, which would have the effect of taking that money — about $535 million last year, and $688 million this year — out from under the TABOR revenue cap, freeing up an equal amount of money to be used for other services, such as transportation and education.

But lowering that amount also would cut into any TABOR refunds, which are projected to be about $352 million by the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Source: Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing and the Colorado Hospital Association

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/explaining-the-hospital-provider-fee-proposal

Oct 02

Hickenlooper warns K-12 shortfall may grow

Colorado’s $855 million school funding gap may well grow in 2016-17, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday in remarks to a group that advocates for improved school support.
“We might not be able to decrease the negative factor, and there might be an increase,” the governor said, referring to the 2016-17 budget plan he has to submit to the legislature by Nov. 1.
Hickenlooper spoke to the annual fundraising luncheon for Great Education Colorado, an advocacy group that long has been critical of the negative factor, the formula the legislature uses to control school spending and balance the state budget.
The Colorado Supreme Court just last week rejected the case of Dwyer v. State, a constitutional challenge to the negative factor. That decision disheartened many education advocates.
Hickenlooper’s remarks were not surprising, given the court ruling and a variety of complicated budget challenges facing the state. But it was the first time the governor publicly gave that warning to a large education audience.
The governor’s comment was made in the context of brief, campaign-style remarks during which he pushed for a change that would ease pressure on the state’s revenue ceiling and dismissed Republican criticism of two administration transportation initiatives.
Negative factor history
• Fiscal year 15-16: $855.1M
• FY14-15: $880M
• FY13-14: $1.004B
• FY12-13: $1.001B
• FY11-12: $774M
• FY10-11: $381M
• FY09-10: $130M Continue reading

Sep 13

Fight brewing over TABOR among the issues

Club 20 pitches ideas to Western Slope conservatives during event

Fight brewing over TABOR among the issues

By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post

Posted:   09/12/2015

Club 20 Rep. Coram

Rep. Don Coram addresses the Club 20 Western Slope fall conclave, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (Joey Bunch, The Denver Post)

GRAND JUNCTION — Some of the Western Slope’s most influential and most conservative local leaders heard an unspecific plan to change the way Coloradans vote on political candidates, put constitutional amendments on the ballot and pay taxes at Club 20’s fall conclave this weekend.

A new bipartisan, nonprofit civic organization called Building a Better Colorado is crafting its pitch to Colorado voters, who might vote on some of these changes during next year’s general election.

Looming budget crises and potentially unsustainable cuts in state services are driving civic and political leaders to look for remedies, supporters told Club 20 members Saturday morning.

 

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28802309/club-20-pitches-ideas-western-slope-conservatives-during-event

Sep 02

Blake: Sabotaging TABOR comes down to a single subject

Blake: Sabotaging TABOR comes down to a single subject

When it comes to sabotaging TABOR, term limits and the initiative process, the usual suspects tend to round themselves up.

The latest group, called “Building a Better Colorado,” is fronted by the otherwise estimable Dan Ritchie, who served 15 years as chancellor of the University of Denver, taking no pay and donating his $50 million ranch to the school.

The organization intends to hold “town hall meetings” throughout the state and produce a report recommending changes by year’s end.

Presumably most of these changes would necessitate ballot initiatives, since it’s hard to get the two-thirds majorities needed in the legislature to place referendums.

Photo and copyright: Tony's Takes -  used by permission

By proposing initiatives they are going to have to confront the awkward single-subject rule. More on that later.

Despite the clarity of their goals, the reformers like to talk in tiptoe-through-the-tulips terms. “It is subtle,” Gail Klapper of the Colorado Forum told The Denver Post, adding the discussions are about “nuanced changes” allowing Colorado “to move forward in the way we all want it to go.”

The Colorado Forum is just one of several civic groups behind Ritchie’s efforts. Its goals aren’t that subtle. It says on its Web site that “Colorado’s fiscal system has a structural imbalance — created by inherently conflicting constitutional mandates — that will continue to result in a widening gap between General Fund revenue and necessary expenditures.”

However “necessary” might be defined. The Forum goes on to recommend that TABOR-mandated refunds to the people be postponed and “revenue sources” not subject to the revenue cap be considered. Presumably that means imposing more “fees” instead of taxes that require a popular vote.

Continue reading

Aug 01

Hickenlooper begins new state tour to sell TABOR fix

Hickenlooper begins new state tour to sell TABOR fix

Continues push to exempt Colorado’s hospital provider fee

By John Frank
The Denver Post

Posted:   07/31/2015 06:05:35 PM MDT

(Associated Press file)

LEADVILLE — On the first day of a new statewide tour, Gov. John Hickenlooper found an appropriate venue in this high mountain town for his push to revamp how the state spends money.

The Democrat stood on stage at the historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville and made a lengthy pitch for an overhaul to TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Hickenlooper wants to exempt the hospital provider fee from state revenue collections under TABOR because it pushes Colorado over the constitutional cap, prompting taxpayer refunds next year even as the state struggles to adequately fund priority areas.

 

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28568880/hickenlooper-begins-new-state-tour-sell-tabor-fix

Jul 10

MSLF speaks about TABOR on Friday, July 17th

Democrats want to get rid of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
How does TABOR protect your personal and business interests?
Is there a legal difference between a “tax” and a “fee”?
What difference does it make to your bottom line?

William Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which defends constitutional liberties and the rule of law. His book, Sagebrush Rebel, Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today continues to draw rave reviews.

MSLF filed four lawsuits in defense of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). One was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court, but two remain alive, and another was filed just days ago. Two of the cases ask the Supreme Court of Colorado to rule on whether the words “tax” and “fee” have legal meanings, or can they be used interchangeably to collect revenue without the consent of voters?
You need not be a member to attend. Lunch is $25 for non-members, $20 for members and $10 for students. A portion of the lunch fee goes toward the CRBC Small Donor Committee or the CRBC Political Committee to support Republican candidates in the 2016 elections.

RSVP@smallbizgop.com (not required, but appreciated).
Colorado Republican Business Coalition Monthly Luncheon
Friday, July 17 from 11:30am – 1pm
Brooklyn’s at the Pepsi Center
941 Auraria Parkway, Denver

www.smallbizgop.com

Jun 30

Hospital Provider Lawsuit

TABOR Committee members and TABOR friends,

The final of three lawsuit developments:

Last Friday, the TABOR Foundation filed a new lawsuit.  The legal firm representing us is Mountain States Legal Foundation.

The legislature responded in 2009 to an incentive offered by the federal government.  The Medicaid program prompted states to impose a new tax (the word the Medicaid program uses).  Revenues received would be matched and the funds made available to pay (some) hospitals for care of indigent people who otherwise would leave the hospitals uncompensated.  As the legislation was moving forward, a memo was generated at the Capitol warning legislators that if the charges were used ONLY for the hospital match, they could qualify as a fee (I would dispute that, but that’s not the issue at hand).  Legislators were warned that if the revenues were used instead for general fund purposes, the charge would definitely be a tax and subject to a TABOR vote.

In three different fiscal years, the legislature diverted some portion of those funds for general appropriations.  Yet, no TABOR prior voter approval was ever obtained, in violation of the TABOR provision in the Colorado Constitution.

The TABOR Committee last fall asked the Hickenlooper administration to address the breach and to negotiate a solution in good faith.  The first meeting was put off until well after the legislative session started, and promises to raise the issue within the Governor’s Council and communicate back were not fulfilled.  Rather, Governor Hickenlooper went public with a scheme to move the whole thing off budget, as if the tax was handled by a government business!

Penn R. Pfiffner

Chairman, TABOR Committee