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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Jul 15

Progressive commissioner group seeks to “untangle TABOR” & redirect Senate Bill 267 money

DENVER – Transportation funding in Senate Bill 17-267, that was billed as the “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” Act, may in fact filter to more-populated areas if a newly-formed association made up of like-minded county commissioners has anything to say about it.

SB 267 was rushed through with more than 70 pages of strike below in the waning moments of the 2017 legislative session. It was billed as the “Grand Deal” by its supporters and the “Grand Betrayal” by its detractors.

There is no doubt it was controversial throughout the process because it involved reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee from a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) governed account to an enterprise, non-TABOR restricted account. It also put into use Certificates of Participation (COPs), which some believe are an end around TABOR.   Some also believed it violated Colorado’s single-subject law for new legislation.

Since it was signed into law and took effect July 1, Complete Colorado broke the news that a drafting error would cost special taxing districts such as the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), which funds the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, millions in revenue.

Complete Colorado has also learned that an organized group of county commissioners called Counties and Communities Acting Together (CCAT) see the new law as a stepping stone to further weaken TABOR.

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Jul 01

Healthcare “Enterprise” is Unconstitutional, says Taxpayer Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: William Perry Pendley, 303/292-2021, Ext. 30

Healthcare “Enterprise” is Unconstitutional, says Taxpayer Group

June 30, 2017 – DENVER, CO. A Colorado group that defends the rights of taxpayers today filed a motion to amend and supplement its complaint against two Colorado entities and their officials for violation of the Colorado Constitution’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). On June 26, 2015, the TABOR Foundation alleges in Denver County Court that its members should have been allowed to vote on whether a “hospital provider fee” could be imposed on Colorado hospitals, which since its enactment in 2009, allowed Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to collect tens of millions and perhaps even a hundred million dollars. Although federal law lets States impose healthcare assessments to pay for Medicaid services, the regulations provide for “taxes” and not “fees” as Colorado calls them to avoid TABOR. Also, although the 2009 act provided that the funds collected would 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 Foundation sought declaratory and injunctive relief and refund of revenues collected, with the payment of 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, 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; however, except for the insertion of the Enterprise in this purportedly unconstitutional endeavor, all of the Foundation’s 2015 claims for relief remain virtually identical.

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Jun 24

Guest editorial: Provider fee bait and switch evades TABOR

June 22, 2017 9:58 AM· By Brian Vande Krol

Little ole Colorado, you’ve done well for yourself. You were a collection of cow towns when I first moved here in 1988.  It was said that yogurt was the only culture in Colorado, and cowboys don’t eat yogurt.

Colorado is wealthy. Not DC wealthy, but quite a step up from the late 80’s. We rank 11th for median household income, have the 10th lowest unemployment rate, and the 14th lowest poverty rate. We have the Denver Performing Arts Center, and a growing system of subsidized trains.  Colorado is also healthy, ranking 10th.

One reason we have done well is our restrained state government. With our balanced budget requirement and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), government has a tough time taking more of our money. That means greater economic growth.

But 70% of our state’s roads and bridges are in poor or mediocre condition, and getting worse. And, despite all that wealth and health, 1 in 4 Coloradans depend on the government for healthcare (Medicaid).  The legislature wants more of your money, and is willing to close down hospitals to keep it.

The most cynical move of all

 The legislature argued for several years about the Hospital Provider Fee, an $800 million program, claiming it is solely responsible for exceeding TABOR revenue limits, a situation that would require refunds to taxpayers. (Yes, it’s actually a tax. They just call it a fee so they don’t have to ask perIcon_2016_Guest_Edmission to take the money.) But every revenue source is equally to blame for exceeding the limit. To appease their insatiable appetite for more revenue, the legislature moved the program out of the general fund so it is not subject to the revenue limits.  This is a crafty, deceptive scheme to avoid asking permission from voters to take more money, and to avoid refunding excess collections. They threatened to close rural hospitals if they didn’t get their way.

TABOR requires a change to the revenue limit if a program’s costs are moved off the books. It also requires TABOR to be interpreted to “reasonably restrain most the growth of government.” Instead of lowering the limit by $800 million, it was lowered only $200 million, resulting in a permanent $600 million per year tax increase.  (The $800 million will still be spent, but outside of the budget, leaving more room in the budget, and more taxpayer dollars to be taken and spent.)  Senate President Kevin Grantham (R, Canon City) believes that as long as there is a change, he has met the constitutional requirement. Continue reading