Apr 06

Lawmakers Are Close To A New State Budget. Here’s Where Money Is And Isn’t Going

Colorado lawmakers have all but signed off on the biggest budget in state history. The $28.9 billion spending plan invests taxpayer dollars in roads, schools and the state’s troubled pension fund.

Unlike in previous years, lawmakers had a $1.3 billion surplus to split between their different priorities. The extra money is thanks to a booming a economy and the federal tax reform package, according to state economists. While a surplus has eased tensions among lawmakers jockeying for priorities, it also has them scrambling for the extra dollars.

The Senate added a number of changes to the budget Wednesday night. The chamber is scheduled to take a final vote on it’s version this week before a bipartisan committee begins ironing differences with the House version. The deadline for final passage is the end of next week. Here’s where the money is — and isn’t — headed.

No TABOR Refund

In Coloradothe Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights limits the amount of money lawmakers can spend before they have to supply refunds to taxpayers. Lawmakers don’t expect to hit the TABOR cap over the next fiscal year, so Coloradans won’t be getting a refund check next year. Part of the reason for that has to do with a major financial compromise struck last year. It recategorized a fee paid by hospitals, which created room for spending beneath the TABOR limit.

Fix Roads And Bridges

The budget allocates $495 billion for one-time spending on road projects. That’s a fraction of the $9 billion the Colorado Department of Transportation says it needs to modernize transportation infrastructure around the state. But the spending is in line with a request from the governor and a compromise transportation bill approved in the Senate last week. That plan would use the money to buy time for voters to consider a citizen initiative in November to raise sales taxes for road funding. If that fails, the compromise would trigger another initiative asking voters for new transportation bonds in 2019. Continue reading

Mar 07

Update on The Hospital Provider Fee lawsuit

 

-TABOR friends and supporters,

You know that your TABOR Foundation filed a lawsuit to stop the collection of the Hospital Provider tax and program until the new tax receives its required voter approval.  We also had to amend the lawsuit to include all the wrong-headed, errant and unconstitutional provisions that affected the program with the passage of Senate Bill 267 last year.  That measure will allow an increase of state taxes of (at least) $400 million per year, without the required TABOR vote.  It also moved the welfare program that is the Hospital Provider fund off the books by renaming it as a government business.

We wanted to let you know that there has been significant activity on that lawsuit.  It had been filed originally in 2015 but was not taken up by the Court for 18 months.  Within the past several months, our attorneys at Mountain States Legal Foundation filed the amended complaint.  They have answered copious number of briefs to:

  • obtain permission to make that filing,
  • to resist unsuccessfully the addition as Defendants of the Hospital Association, and
  • to add to our own list of Plaintiffs

In addition, a lot more activity has taken place with the procedure of Discovery.  Just last week, I was deposed for nearly four hours by opposition attorneys, and another TABOR Foundation Director, Rebecca Sopkin, withstood another two hours of grilling.  Our attorneys have taken depositions from the Defendants.

Our attorneys must also deal with the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit altogether, as they allege among other things, that there is no remedy (“relief”) for the problems we have cited.  There is also an important motion for summary judgment that is in process.  Unless one of those two motions is successful, we will see this lawsuit go to trial in late June.

We’ll try to keep you apprised of further developments as they occur.  The speed that new steps are occurring and the demands on our volunteer time are such that we have been running out of time to inform you in a timely manner.

 

Penn Pfiffner
Chairman

Feb 10

Grover Norquist: Republicans produce nationally, but in Colorado they betray taxpayers locally

by Grover Norquist | 

Some Republican state legislators remind us that no one’s life is a complete waste — some simply serve as bad examples. One of those bad examples can be found in Colorado. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

Congress just proved an amazing thing happens when Republicans remember to govern as Reagan Republicans.

The most substantial tax overhaul since the Reagan years has sparked our economy. Republicans in Congress gathered the courage to face down the pro-tax media, special interests, and the opposition of every single Democrat in Congress to help families keep more of what they earn. Already tax reform has resulted in at least 285 companies announcing wage increases, bonuses, and higher 401(k) matches for 3 million workers. Utility companies are reducing rates in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Continue reading

Feb 03

The Republican grand betrayal that just keeps getting worse

PUBLISHED: 

To comprehend how that’s possible, we need to understand the largest betrayal of Republican values in Colorado political history: the tax-hiking, debt-raising, TABOR-busting Senate Bill 267, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and enabled by the schizophrenic leadership of Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The beauty of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is that taxes and debt can grow as high as any communist would like, all you have to do is ask the voters first. But elected officials, doing their best Bernie Madoff, don’t want to ask for consent when they know the answer is going to be “no.” They re-label taxes as “fees” and debt as “certificates of participation,” so the Colorado Supreme Court lets them take our money without our voter consent.

In 2009, without asking, the state forced an extra tax on us when we’re sick and have to go to the hospital. In their best George Orwell, the legislature named this tax “The Hospital Provider Fee,” as if hospitals, not patients, pay it. The new “fee” generated more than $650 million in 2016, pushing Colorado’s revenue over its TABOR cap.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story

 

 

Jan 30

Legislators find way to restore pot-tax funding to RTD, museums

Legislators find way to restore pot-tax funding to RTD, museums

A RTD train sits at the corporate office, located between the Evans and Broadway stations.

By Ed Sealover  –  Reporter, Denver Business Journal

Jan 30, 2018

Regional Transportation District trains, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District museums and other beneficiaries of special-district funding soon will be on a path to again receive the revenues from retail marijuana sales that they’d been losing since July.

Colorado senators on Tuesday approved a “fix” for the language that has left those districts unable to collect sales taxes for cannabis sales within their district since shortly after an omnibus funding bill from the 2017 session was signed into law. Affected organizations have warned that while the problem has not led to program cuts yet, it could do so in the future if it’s not remedied.

The fix to the error made in Senate Bill 267 is not one with unanimous support, having passed to the House Tuesday on a final vote of 24-10. Republican leaders warned not only that they feel the bill is unconstitutional, but that districts that re-start the collection of marijuana taxes without a vote of the people may be challenged in court.

Still, the organizations likely to begin receiving more money in the near future cheered Thursday’s vote to pass Senate Bill 88 out of the Republican-majority Senate and onto the Democrat-led House, where leaders have expressed support for the fix.

“Right now we’ve been able to absorb that loss of revenue. But long-term it’s definitely going to affect what we’re able to do,” said Scott Reed, assistant general manager for communications at RTD, which has lost about $500,000 a month. “This is a step in the right direction to correct the inadvertent mistake from Senate Bill 267.” Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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