Jul 23

10th Circuit reverses TABOR ruling, says lawsuit can challenge Colorado law’s constitutionality

10th Circuit reverses TABOR ruling, says lawsuit can challenge Colorado law’s constitutionality

Federal judge previously had found lawsuit’s plaintiffs lacked standing to sue

 

By ANNA STAVER | astaver@denverpost.com | The Denver Post

PUBLISHED: July 22, 2019 at 3:18 pm | UPDATED: July 22, 2019 at 5:43 pm

A sidelined legal challenge to the constitutionality of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights is back on again, following a decision by a federal appeals court Monday that found some plaintiffs in the case have a right to sue.

“We have been dealing for eight years with threshold procedural issues,” said David Skaggs, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “Now I hope we will be heading back to district court to finally get to the merits.”

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision reverses a 2017 ruling by a federal judge in Denver who said the plaintiffs lacked what’s called standing — meaning they could show they would be subject to actual or threatened damages — and therefore couldn’t sue.

The lawsuit itself dates to 2011 when Sen. Andy Kerr and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst challenged TABOR in federal court.

They argued that giving the final say on all tax increases to voters — as TABOR mandated after its approval by Colorado voters in 1992 — violated the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is a line in Article IV, Section 4 that promised every state a republican form of government. TABOR, they argued, transformed the state into a direct democracy.

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Jul 18

TABOR Repeal Supporters Don’t Want To Call It That

Gee, we wonder what they’re trying to hide?
Why are they being so sneaky?
Don’t lose your #TABOR Rights.
Vote NO on whatever they call it in 2020

TABOR Repeal Supporters Don’t Want To Call It That

July 17, 2019

A 2013 ballot and voter blue book.Megan Verlee/CPR News
A 2013 ballot and voter blue book.

The Colorado Title Board on Wednesday approved key language for a possible 2020 ballot initiative that would repeal a highly consequential part of the state constitution.

But which part, exactly? If you ask repeal proponents, it’s Article X, Section 20. If you ask repeal opponents, it’s the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. How the ballot question is presented to voters is just the latest high-stakes skirmish in a long war over TABOR, a controversial constitutional amendment passed in 1992 that’s limited government growth in the state.

Both sides presented arguments to the title board, a three-member panel with representatives from the Secretary of State’s office, the state Attorney General and the Office of Legislative Legal Services, that decides if ballot measures meet all requirements and how they should appear on the ballot.

The Full Story Behind TABOR: Read & Listen To The Taxman Podcast

The liberal-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute is backing the repeal effort, which won a significant victory at the Colorado State Supreme Court last month allowing it to inch closer to the 2020 ballot. Carol Hedges, the group’s executive director, said using the specific term, “Article X, Section 20,” is the most clear, neutral way possible to refer to the amendment.

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Jul 09

Q&A with Penn Pfiffner | On standing up for freedom, and TABOR

Q&A with Penn Pfiffner | On standing up for freedom, and TABOR

·         Dan Njegomir, Colorado Politics

The TABOR Foundation’s Penn Pfiffner addresses the Reagan Club of Colorado earlier this year. (Photo courtesy the TABOR Foundation)

 

Even if you don’t move in Penn Pfiffner’s center-right political circles, you’re probably familiar with his name as the media’s go-to guy for comment on the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights whenever it comes up in the news. And it comes up a lot, of course. 

The groundbreaking taxing and spending limits — venerated by some and vilified by others — have been stirring debate ever since being enacted into Colorado’s Constitution by voters in 1992. Better known by its acronym TABOR, the constitutional provision has prompted lawsuits, legislation and more ballot issues by wide-ranging interests hoping to elude or at least ease its restraints on state and local budgets. 

The perennial back-and-forth over TABOR also spawned the TABOR Foundation, which, along with its advocacy counterpart the TABOR Committee, emerged with the help of Pfiffner and other resolute TABOR supporters to stand up for the policy.

Pfiffner, who served as a Republican state representative from Lakewood in the 1990s, has become as distinctive a voice for TABOR over the years as he has for the advocacy of limited government in general.

He expounds on both of those endeavors and more — as always, in his characteristically eloquent and respectful way — in today’s Q&A.

Colorado Politics: Let’s start with a recent headline. The state Supreme Court ruled June 17 that a pending ballot proposal to repeal TABOR in its entirety may proceed — despite a constitutional “single-subject” stipulation on ballot issues that was long believed to have blocked precisely such an all-in-one-shot repeal.

In a public statement from the TABOR Foundation condemning the ruling, you said, “The court has become dangerously unmoored from the clear meaning of the state constitution.” The statement also said the court ”appears to take sides.”

Recap for us what was fundamentally at issue in the case before court — and why you feel the court missed the mark.

Penn Pfiffner: The recent direction of the Colorado courts on constitutional matters should trouble any citizen. Our American system relies on an honest judicial branch to impartially interpret the law. We have seen an absolutely consistent antipathy from the courts towards the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

It’s an understatement to say that the justices from trial level to the Colorado Supreme Court have appeared to argue backwards from predetermined outcomes. Some of the arguments appeared to me to be even juvenile, like an adolescent trying too hard to argue the impossible.

The central finding in the Bridge Enterprise case that the TABOR Foundation brought is an example. Years from now, I surmise historians of Colorado’s system will be amazed and disgusted that it became so partisan during these recent years. Good, experienced attorneys today are urging the TABOR Foundation not to bring any more constitutional issues to the judicial branch — it’s that futile, and all that we end up with is setting bad precedent. In the case you raise, the court explicitly threw out a generation of precedent. It’s as if they never opened the section on TABOR to read all the different pieces in this comprehensive constitutional measure.

A dissent from the bench pointed out that some activist could now substitute Colorado’s extensive “Bill of Rights” for “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” (in a ballot proposal) and in one vote overturn all citizen protections. A leftist court looks ready to use its personal political views to put a thumb on the scales of justice.


Penn Pfiffner

  • Chairs the board of directors for the TABOR Foundation and the TABOR Committee, since 2009. The two entities, respectively, educate and advocate on behalf of TABOR.
  • Owner, Construction Economics LLC, since 1983; provides financial and managerial consulting to architects, engineers and contractors.
  • Senior fellow in fiscal policy at the Denver-based Independence Institute, 2001-2014.
  • Served as a Republican state representative from Jefferson County in the Colorado House, 1993-2001.
  • Current board member and past president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers.
  • Chaired “Too Taxing for Colorado,” an issue committee to defeat the unsuccessful Proposition 103 tax increase on the 2011 statewide ballot.
  • Holds a master’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado Denver and bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science from CU Boulder.

 

CP: Give us your elevator speech on TABOR’s role, and value, in our state constitution.

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

 

Jul 08

PROPOSITION CC IS AN ATTACK ON THE TAXPAYER’S BILL OF RIGHTS

PROPOSITION CC IS AN ATTACK ON THE TAXPAYER’S BILL OF RIGHTS

Proposition CC is the Colorado November ballot question that would take away hardworking Coloradans tax refunds—FOREVER. Vote no to this attack on TABOR.

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.

These words from Sir Walter Scott’s 1808 poem, “Marmion,” appropriately describe Proposition CC, the Colorado November ballot question that would take away hardworking Coloradans tax refunds, FOREVER. From the opening three words, “Without raising taxes,” we are being deceived by the writers and proponents of this proposition. When taxpayer money is not refunded as outlined in the Constitutional Amendment, TABOR, The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the state is keeping more of our tax dollars, and therefore those tax dollars shall be defined as a tax increase. This statewide measure is asking voters to permanently give up tax refunds that are owed to us under The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. I am quite certain that if the federal government decided to keep all tax refunds for all of eternity there would be absolute chaos as we, the taxpayers, would refuse to believe that it is not a tax increase.

The deceit continues with the phrase “to better fund public schools, higher education, and roads, bridges, and transit.” There is no commitment to dedicating the “taxpayer refunds” to public schools, higher education, roads, bridges, and transit. There is no “shall” or “must” in this proposition. Instead, it is very open ended and does not allow the voters and taxpayers to know how the money will actually be spent, nor the percentages for each category.

Keep in mind that House Speaker K.C. Becker, one of the sponsors of the bill that produced Proposition CC, back in April during her discourse with Representative Susan Beckman in a House Finance Committee hearing, said, “As you know, Representative Beckman, one legislature can’t bind future legislators, so I don’t know what’s going to happen forevermore. And any change that is statutory, whether voters approve it or not, can always be changed by the legislature because the legislature always has the authority to change statutes.” These words from the Speaker of the House clearly states that there are no guarantees as to where the additional funds will go.

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

Jul 04

EDITORIAL: Rebate grabbers at Colorado Capitol try a new scheme

EDITORIAL: Rebate grabbers at Colorado Capitol try a new scheme

  • By: 
Colorado State Senate (copy) (copy)
Caption +
State politicians are scheming to have Gov. Jared Polis call a special session this summer. They need a chance to fix their big problem with Proposition CC.

Prop CC, referred to the ballot by the 2019 Legislature, would gut the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Surveys show TABOR, passed by voters in 1992, is more popular than ever.

Taxpayers like TABOR because voters do not trust politicians on either side of the aisle. They are tired of legislators passing laws that counter their will, such as jobs-killing regulations of oil and gas that voters rejected on the ballot. They are tired of state officials acting broke while the economy generates mountains of surplus cash.

This year, with the booming state economy, TABOR might generate its largest tax rebate in history. Some politicians cannot stand it. They think they know best how best to spend the money. They loathe returning it to the people who earned it.
Jul 04

Colorado Governor Jared Polis Is Working On A New Plan To Block Tax Relief

Colorado Governor Jared Polis Is Working On A New Plan To Block Tax Relief

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) welcomed conservative economist Art Laffer to the state capitol in Denver today to help gin up Republican support for a potential deal intended to avert taxpayer refunds projected to be sent to Colorado taxpayers in the coming year, with Polis’ ultimate goal being the wounding of the nation’s strongest taxpayer protection measure so that it remains in effect in name only, not in practice.

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), approved by voters in 1992 as an amendment to the state constitution, is the sturdiest taxpayer safeguard in the nation. Under TABOR, state revenue cannot grow faster than the combined rate of population growth and inflation.

Any state revenue collected in excess of the TABOR cap must be refunded to taxpayers. Thanks to healthy state revenue collections coming in above the cap allowed by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, current projections show the state will have to refund roughly $500 million to Colorado taxpayers next year. That won’t happen if Proposition CC, a measure ending TABOR refunds, is rejected by Colorado voters this November.

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

Jul 02

Network of Colorado groups ramp up effort to diminish Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Don’t mess with TABOR.
TABOR protects you from Tax & Spend politicians.
Vote NO on Proposition CC in November and NO on repealing TABOR in November 2020.
Don’t lose your rights!

Network of Colorado groups ramp up effort to diminish Taxpayer Bill of Rights

A voter exits the voting booth at the Denver Election Commission office in Denver, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005. With polls suggesting a vote too close to call, Colorado residents decided Tuesday whether to hand state government more than $3 billion in taxpayer money to stave off potentially drastic cuts to everything from higher education to health care for the poor.

The network is called Vision 2020, and so far it includes the Bell Policy Center and Colorado Fiscal Institute, and Great Education Colorado, among others.

The network recently praised a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that said a proposed measure to repeal TABOR outright doesn’t violate the state constitution’s single-subject requirement. The ruling means TABOR, passed by voters in 1992, could be repealed with one vote.

Proponents of repeal would still need to collect signatures to get the question on the ballot for 2020.

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

Jun 29

TABOR Override in Trouble

The Buzz

Friday, June 28, 2019

TABOR Override in Trouble

Colorado’s controversial tax limitation initiative is on the defensive. The Democratic Party and elements of the business community and local government have been long opposed to the TABOR Amendment passed in 1992, during an era of Republican ascendance and strong anti-tax sentiment. Several restrictions included in it have been limited by courts, and now the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the entire multi-topic amendment can be overturned by one counter amendment if its opponents want to take it on.
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