Feb 12

Lawyers for two ex-Colorado governors say Hickenlooper hospital plan is legal

Lawyers for two ex-Colorado governors say Hickenlooper hospital plan is legal

Lawyers for two ex-Colorado governors say Hickenlooper hospital plan is legal 

As Coloradans wait for an opinion from Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman over what’s become the biggest political debate in Colorado, two former executive branch lawyers are weighing in with their own conclusion.

At issue is whether it would be constitutional to reclassify a billion dollar hospital program so money generated from it will not push general fund revenue over mandated limits under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and many Democrats in the legislature want a program called the hospital provider fee redesignated so there’s more money in the budget to fund roads, education and other programs.

In a legal review released today by former attorneys for past governors Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and Bill Owens, a Republican, they say the Hickenlooper plan would be “legally sound and fiscally responsible.”

The lawyers are Jon Anderson and Trey Rogers who worked for Owens and Ritter respectively. They did the legal analysis at the request of a coalition called Fix The Glitch, which is made up of business groups, higher education institutions, and other organizations whose interests stand to lose out.


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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

Federal court hears arguments in ongoing TABOR lawsuit

A question of standing

By John Frank
The Denver Post

POSTED:   01/21/2016 11:03:15 AM MST

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard oral arguments Thursday on a key question in the long-running legal battle against Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

A three-judge panel must decide, once again, whether a coalition of TABOR critics — led by state Sen. Andy Kerr and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst — has standing to challenge the merits of the much-contested constitutional provision approved by voters in 1992. The case is Kerr v. Hickenlooper.

TABOR requires that voters approve all tax hikes — which the lawmakers argue infringes on their power and undermines the state’s republican form of government.

To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

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


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 16

Part 2: Important questions about TABOR and their answers

n a special article last week, experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle answered key questions about The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

TABOR 2016Through answers to four questions, experts introduced readers to the basics of the constitutional amendment, how it factors into the state budget, how enterprise funds can move around TABOR and what the tax law requires voters to approve.

The state’s unique tax law likely will become a point of conversation and contention during much of this year. Some in government see TABOR as too restrictive a way to govern Colorado’s budget and others argue it keeps excessive spending in check.

Officials have cited TABOR as a reason for proposed cuts in the next state budget, a state group is looking to see if people would vote to change parts of the constitutional amendment and state Democratic lawmakers want to try and work around parts of the tax law with enterprise funds.

Some parts of TABOR aren’t as unique to Colorado as they may sound. To address that idea and more, here is the second of two articles — researched with politicians and experts on both sides of the political spectrum — offering some important questions about TABOR and their answers:

How many other states have TABOR, or tax codes with TABOR-like elements? Continue reading

Jan 14

Guv talks 2016 Budget, Hospital Provider Fee, & TABOR


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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