Feb 12

Bipartisan legal opinion surfaces regarding Colorado’s hospital fee and road funding

Bipartisan legal opinion surfaces regarding Colorado’s hospital fee and road funding

Feb 11, 2016, 2:56pm MST Updated Feb 11, 2016, 3:53pm MST

Ed Sealover Reporter Denver Business Journal

Former legal counsels for the past two Colorado governors opined Thursday that the Legislature can turn the hospital provider fee into an enterprise fund and create more room in the general fund for transportation and education spending — a development that business leaders hope will convince some Republicans who may be sitting on the fence to back the move for such a change.

The release of the opinion came just hours after Gov. John Hickenlooper told a meeting of the Colorado Municipal League that if he can convince legislators to back his idea about turning the fee into an enterprise fund, he would like to use some of the newly freed revenue stream to sell bonds and raise $4 billion to $5 billion for immediate transportation solutions.

Hickenlooper speaksColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to a Colorado Municipal League meeting on Feb. 11,… more

Ed Sealover | Denver Business Journal

Republican legislative leaders did not react immediately to either the opinion or to Hickenlooper’s bonding plan.

But Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said that GOP leaders to whom she has spoken in favor of the enterprising plan have promised her to keep an open mind. And if the constitutionality of the enterprise plan was the tipping point for anyone to oppose the idea, she thinks the new arguments might be enough to push them the other way.

“For those for whom this truly is a legal issue, it could make a big difference,” Brough said. “Now we have two additional attorneys coming out and saying that they feel that the enterprise fund is legal.” Continue reading

Jan 21

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Donald E.L. Johnson

Donald E.L. Johnson

Colorado conservatives who want to control spending and taxes in the state should keep a close eye on the bipartisan Building a Better Colorado.

Its mission is pretty clear to anyone who has attended one of its some 20 “summits” that have been held around the state and has read its handouts and website.

Building a Better Colorado is intent on making it easier for politicians to increase spending and raise taxes. That is, it wants to repeal TABOR), which has helped keep spending in check in Colorado since it was passed in the early 1990s.

Further, BABC wants to make it harder to amend the state constitution by requiring a “super majority” of somewhere between a 50 percent to 66 percent majority to amend the constitution. Today, it is as easy to amend the constitution as it is to pass a referendum that creates a new law or set of laws that can be changed by the General Assembly.

 

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Jan 20

Roberts: Colorado can’t balance its budget by ignoring its constitution

“My legislative duty includes necessarily upholding constitutional requirements.” – Senator Ellen Roberts

We’re past the ceremonial days of the 2016 legislature and the only tasks we must complete in a session, based on the state’s constitution, are to pass the budget and the school finance act. Although a short list, these two pieces of legislation require months of noodling, number-crunching and negotiations. This year will be no exception. The budget touches every essential — and many nonessential — governmental services, and will be the biggest challenge we face over the next 120 days.

In their opening speeches, Gov. John Hickenlooper and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, both Democrats, already assigned blame to the Republicans for budget battles brewing on the horizon, saying there’s only one path to reconciling the mess and that’s with their workaround on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Their speeches highlighted the word “compromise,” but in a way that suggested perhaps neither has read the book Getting to Yes. There’s an art to compromise, including listening and incorporating the input of others, something sorely missing here.

It’s important to note that the top 2016 challenge in all U.S. state legislatures is balancing their budgets. Unlike Colorado, more than a dozen states failed to meet their 2015 deadlines to balance their budget. So, while the spending limitations of TABOR and other constitutional requirements are hard to reconcile, it’s not TABOR causing the big squeeze, but, as experienced across the country, the very long lists of state spending that are exceeding available revenue. Continue reading

Jan 20

Guest Commentary: An unlawful swipe at TABOR on hospital provider “enterprise”

By Penn Pfiffner
Penn Pfiffner is a former Colorado legislator. He is chairman of the TABOR Committee.

Here’s a bad idea: hide a state government function off-budget and sock citizens with a big tax increase in the doing.

That’s what the Hickenlooper administration wants to do with its proposal to redefine the state’s hospital provider charge as an “enterprise.”

Colorado’s tax system is set up so that in a good economy, taxes are collected at a pace faster than growth in population and inflation. When government over-collects taxes, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) forces it to return the surplus to taxpayers.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story

 

 

 

Jan 20

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Corey Hutchins
January 19, 2016

Lawyers on Thursday will argue their case before a federal judge about why they believe Colorado’s voter-initiated Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state Constitution is, well, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Since passed in the early ’90s, the complex law requires, among other things, that voters must approve of any tax increase. It also mandates governments to rebate money to taxpayers if the government takes in more revenue than expected. A Colorado Springs landlord and anti-tax folk hero named Douglas Bruce championed the amendment first in his home city, and then took it statewide in 1992. Since then it’s been the law of the land in Colorado, and has become a perennial political controversy. Continue reading

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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.”

 

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