Jan 18

Mayors call for ‘de-Brucing’ Colorado at DBJ State of the Cities forum

Mayors from across the Denver metro on Tuesday railed against gridlock at both the state and federal levels while discussing local and regional solutions to problems such as affordable housing and transportation, and called for the “de-Brucing” of state finances in the way many municipalities that have done already.

Five metro mayors gathered at the Denver Business Journal’s annual State of the Cities event to field questions on topics ranging from education funding to construction defects laws and the effect it’s having on construction of mid-priced condominiums

5 Mayors don't like TABOR

State of the Cities 2016: Neil Westergaard, Denver Business Journal editor-in-chief,… more

MONICA MENDOZA | DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL

Asked about proposed state-level measures including a $3.5 billion bonding effort and moving revenue from the state’s hospital provider fee to an enterprise fund, both with the goal of boosting funding for roads, mayors said that bigger, constitutional issues need to be addressed first.

“It has to be said. Before we address bonding, we need to de-Bruce. Period. And allow, without raising taxes, for the state of Colorado to take the revenue they receive and to begin to invest in important programs like transportation, roads and education,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

De-Brucing is a reference to tax activist Douglas Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment. TABOR placed limits on the amount of tax revenue that can be collected by governments in Colorado and mandates tax rebates in some cases when revenues exceed limits tied to population growth.

The term “de-Brucing” refers to ballot measures that allow governments to opt out of the revenue limits and keep amounts raised by existing tax rates. Tax rate increases have to be approved by voters under TABOR. Continue reading

Jan 14

Guv talks 2016 Budget, Hospital Provider Fee, & TABOR

011316_3a_hick_ashby

Gov. John Hickenlooper said his annual State of the State speech on Thursday will have something for everyone. One of the biggest topics of the session will be over what to do about the state’s annual budget.


DENVER — Never mind the state’s budget woes, affordable housing or hydraulic fracturing, the most immediate thing for Coloradans to worry about right now is one important question: Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler?

That, at least, from Gov. John Hickenlooper in talking about who the Denver Broncos should start in Sunday’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The Broncos have established once again that they are a team blessed,” the governor told the media in a pre-legislative press conference to talk about the 2016 session that starts today. “My inclination then is, given that there seems to be some level of intervention from somewhere, that would push me to support Peyton Manning. Lord knows, he has had one of the most blessed careers.”

Beyond that, the governor said one of the biggest topics of discussion this session will be over what to do about the state’s annual budget. Continue reading

Jan 12

Colorado Superintendents ask for increased funding

January 12, 2016 12:20 PM· By Sherrie Peif

Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.

Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.

About a hundred teachers, school board members, union activists and others gathered Monday at the Colorado Capitol to support superintendents from across Colorado in their effort to increase funding for their school districts.

The exact number of superintendents on hand was not known, but organizers say superintendents from 167 of the 178 districts in Colorado support the efforts, which started with many lobbying legislators to support reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it falls outside the requirements of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver, says the Hospital Provider Fee is nothing more than a bed tax*.

The move would free up hundreds of millions of dollars under TABOR and leave the state free to fund other programs such as education. Superintendents say that since 2010 they have lost $5 billion in funding due to the “Negative Factor,” a budgeting mechanism used by the Colorado General Assembly to restrain total spending on public education while still allowing base spending to rise by enrollment plus inflation each year.

 

Continue reading

Jan 12

Colorado governor’s wedding the kickoff for what could be testy legislative session

By: Megan Schrader

Updated: January 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm

photo - Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted he can work with Republicans on his plan to avoid having to give refunds to taxpayers. Associated Press photo.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted he can work with Republicans on his plan to avoid having to give refunds to taxpayers. Associated Press photo.

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper will get married Saturday in a small private ceremony, kicking off a 120-day stretch of work where he will try to tackle a bungled budget with lawmakers during the 2016 General Assembly.

Hickenlooper, 63, got engaged to Robin Pringle, 37, two weeks ago. He said he proposed at their home in Denver.

“I manned up, right?” Hickenlooper said Tuesday in his pre-session media availability. “I had been trying to talk her out of it for months and she still seemed eager. … I just looked her in the eye and said ‘Should we do this? Would you be willing to get married and be my wife?’”

Hickenlooper will be busy this session trying to sell his plan to keep about $212 million in the budget instead of refunding it to voters through TABOR-mandated refunds.

“Go compare us to our neighboring states. Go compare us to our peer states to Minnesota and Tennessee. … We’re as tight a budget as anybody,” Hickenlooper said.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, approved by voters in 1992, mandates that state spending not increase beyond a certain rate without approval from voters. The 2015 tax year is the first time in several years that voters throughout the state will receive the refunds.

 

Continue reading

Jan 11

Questions about Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Colorado enterprise funds

Questions about Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Colorado enterprise funds (2 letters)

 By
Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman watches as attendance is taken during a session of the legislature at the state Capitol on May 6, 2015. (Brent Lewis, Denver Post file)

Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman watches as attendance is taken during a session of the legislature at the state Capitol on May 6, 2015. (Brent Lewis, Denver Post file)

Re: “Legal memo complicates Hickenlooper’s hospital provider fee effort,” Jan. 7 news story; and “Yet more trouble for state budget,” Jan. 8 editorial.

The hair-splitting continues between the branches of state government regarding the definition of an enterprise for the purposes of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The discussion is way down in the weeds, with one side focusing on what theoretically constitutes an enterprise and the other on the crippling result of applying the TABOR status quo.

In fiscal year 1993, the year after TABOR was passed, state enterprise fund revenues were approximately 4.5 percent of total state revenues. By fiscal year 2014, conversions had grown that to about 28.4 percent. While passing the legal test, many of the current enterprises fail the man-on-the-street “smell test.”

 

Continue reading

Jan 11

Douglas Bruce’s Response to Mike Foote’s Editorial

douglas bruceThe Colorado TABOR Foundation received the following response from Douglas Bruce regarding Mike Foote’s editorial:
 
In the Camera, a local politician calls the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) “A 24-year-old constitutional amendment championed by a discredited anti-government crusader and convicted tax evader…” My 2005 “offense” was giving my entire county commissioner salary to charity. I was denied time to get an attorney, a local jury trial, the right to subpoena witnesses, and many other “rights” we thought we had. The IRS audited me and said the tax deduction was lawful and I was innocent, but their testimony was not allowed. The state case awaits a federal court hearing.
 
Mike Foote uses that frame-up to urge you to vote away your right to vote on taxes–a
classic personal attack. Now you know why the case was filed.
 
TABOR cuts nothing–never has, never will. TABOR applies only to 60% of state revenue. The spending growth limit applies only to excess revenue above an automatic growth rate that provides the state hundreds of millions in new revenue yearly. We can let the state keep all revenue, as in the pot tax refund vote last November.

Continue reading

Jan 10

State’s school superintendents plan rally on Capitol Hill Monday to ask for more money

Photo credit: Todd Shepherd

Photo credit: Todd Shepherd

The education funding battle enters its next round with a new online database supporting superintendents across the state in their effort to convince legislators to spend more money on their districts.

Although schools have been calling for more money since the 2008 recession spawned the “Negative Factor,” this most recent campaign first started shortly after the November election with the superintendent of Littleton Public Schools mailing a flyer to 47,000 residents in his district.

The Negative Factor is a budgeting mechanism used by the Colorado General Assembly to restrain total spending on public education while still allowing base spending to rise by enrollment plus inflation each year. The negative factor reduces funding to school finance factors not covered by Amendment 23, which include school district size, local cost-of-living, and the number of low-income kids in a district. The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that the negative factor is constitutional.

The flyer, which cost the district nearly $10,000, urged residents to contact legislators and support reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it falls outside the requirements of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The move would free up hundreds of millions of dollars under TABOR, despite the fact that many view the “fee” as a tax.

LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert told the Parent Teachers Association that he expects 168 of the state’s 178 school districts to do the same.

It now appears that the head of the state’s second-largest district has joined Ewert in the effort.

 

Continue reading

Jan 10

Cadman: Somebody knew hospital provider fee is unconstitutional

Cadman: Somebody knew hospital provider fee is unconstitutional

But Democrats counter that it’s up to courts to decide: ‘Lots of lawyers will have lots of different opinions’
The Colorado Statesman

It only took 40 minutes for the Office of Legal Services to return Senate President Bill Cadman’s request last week for a memo on whether the Legislature can legally recast the state hospital provider fee as an enterprise fund. The short answer is no, the maneuver wouldn’t comply with the Colorado Constitution.

Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, believes someone else — a lawmaker, a state official — must have requested the same information and failed to share it.

Senate President Bill Cadman displays a memo from the Colorado Legislative Legal Services office answering whether a proposal to reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee would be constitutional at a press conference in his office on Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

Photo by Kara Mason/The Colorado Statesman

“Our guys are really good,” Cadman said. But not that good. Cadman doesn’t think legal services could crank out an opinion on the topic in under an hour.

“Somebody had it, and I wish they would have shared it with us,” he said.

Cadman broke the news to reporters Wednesday afternoon in his office, saying that more reporters — the 10 that were present for the briefing — have seen the memo than have members of his caucus.

 

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Jan 10

Legal memo upsets effort on Colorado hospital provider fee

Dive Brief:

  • A memo from Colorado’s Office of Legislative Legal Services says it woud be unconstitutional for state legislators to exempt the current hospital provider fee program from the revenue limits of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) by turning it into an enterprise fund, state senate President Bill Cadman announced this week.
  • Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has been pushing for the change to boost funding for transportation, to which the provider fee is tied.
  • As it stands, the fee is pushing the state above its revenue cap, which requires taxpayer refunds despite shortfalls in other budget areas, the Denver Post reports.

Continue reading

Jan 09

Review: Building a Better Colorado

Review: Building A Better Colorado

I attended one of the meetings put on by Building a Better Colorado (BBC). It was a thinly veiled attempt to control the narrative on several issues facing Colorado.

This was a two-hour session run by a moderator for a group of about 60 people. The time started with the moderator describing the 3 broad problems/issues (as defined by BBC) to be discussed. Then some time was spent on each issue/problem. Each issue/problem was put in front of the group with various possible responses/solutions. 10 or so minutes were given for each table of 4-8 people to discuss, and then a series of possible responses/solutions were put to a multiple choice vote for that issue/problem. Clicker devices were distributed for people to vote on their response to each response.

The three broad issues were 1) the initiative process for amendments to state law and amendments to the constitution, 2) fiscal policy and TABOR, and 3) the primary voting process.

Here was the basic formula:

Premise: There’s a problem, and here’s our definition/spin on what it is.

What should we do? A. Nothing, B. Our potential Ballot Initiative, C. Our other potential Ballot Initiative.

Vote on how you feel about A.
Vote on how you feel about B.
Vote on how you feel about C.

Here are some specific examples, quoting directly from the handout used in the presentation. After talking about what a huge problem the initiative process is, 2 questions were asked. Here is question #2…

“Should we require a higher threshold for passage of amendments to the CONSTITUTION than for citizen-initiated amendments to state LAW?”

Vote on A: “Maintain current policy…” Of course, a majority of people, having just heard what a problem this is, vote that we need to do something.

Vote on B: “Make it harder to amend the constitution by requiring future amendments to be approved by a supermajority (2/3) vote, but allow fixes/changes to existing language to be approved by the same simple-majority threshold by which it was adopted initially.” People pick from 3 levels of support and 3 levels of opposition.

That’s it. No other choices. On to the next topic.

It was similar with TABOR. Continue reading