Aug 09

Sales tax hike for transportation a regressive, unstable funding scheme

In November, Coloradans will likely be voting on a scheme to raise the state sales tax to support state and local transportation projects.

Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission

Unfortunately, raising sales taxes would hit all the wrong people, and provide a particularly unstable revenue stream to fund this infrastructure.

It’s no secret that Colorado’s roads and bridges are a mess.  They have failed to keep pace with the state’s growth, even as maintenance has fallen behind.

You either end your weekend trip to the mountains on Sunday morning or you pack a picnic lunch for the parking lot home.  Daily commutes on I-25 come to a standstill between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock.  And driving around Denver means a permanent sinking fund for front-end alignments.

We’re in this state of affairs because the Colorado legislature has consistently failed to spend money on roads and bridges instead of other pet projects.  This year, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1 in an attempt to address the problem, but almost everyone agrees that the paltry spending past the first two years is an inadequate solution.

In response, the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Contractors Association have proposed raising the state sales tax from 2.90 percent to 3.52 percent, and authorizing up to $6 billion in bonds.  The additional revenue would be divided among state highways, local governments, and multi-modal (transit) projects. Continue reading

Aug 06

Legal battles continue over Taxpayer Bill of Rights, hospital fees, transportation taxes

egal battles continue over Taxpayer Bill of Rights, hospital fees, transportation taxes

FILE - Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado.

On Nov. 3, 1992, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment which stipulates that lawmakers seeking to raise taxes or issue debt must first ask voters for permission.

Called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, it took effect Dec. 31, 1992, and was designed to serve as another check against the growth of government. It requires that any increase in overall revenue from taxes not exceed the rates of inflation and population growth.

The TABOR Foundation, which was instrumental in advancing the amendment, maintains that it has been a successful measure.

Others maintain it interferes with advancing critical public spending initiatives. Sam Mamet, the executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, opposes TABOR. Mamet argued on the 25th anniversary of TABOR that “iIt is one of the most seriously damaging things the voters of the state have done to themselves in the last 25 years, in my humble opinion.”

Since its inception 26 years ago, many attempts have been made to amend, circumvent and litigate TABOR; the foundation counts at least 80 cases between 1993 and 2017.

Pfiffner said a perfect example of this is the 2015 lawsuit it filed, TABOR Foundation, et al. v. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, et al. regarding Colorado’s “hospital provider fee,” which it argues is an unconstitutional tax.

Continue reading

Jul 31

Colorado expected to see $1 billion in new revenue in 2019; will taxpayers get a rebate?

FILE - Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast presented to the Joint Budget Committee in June showed that the state’s general fund is projected to close out fiscal 2018 with a $1.2 billion surplus.

Since Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) places a cap on annual state tax revenue the state can keep, spend or save, many wonder whether Coloradans will actually see tax refunds in 2020.

 

Continue reading

Jul 17

Bed tax law suit gets new life

Bed tax law suit gets new life

DENVER — Ongoing litigation against the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, among others, over a 2009 program that raised taxes via a “hospital provider fee,” has new energy after Cause of Action Institute announced earlier this month it would take on the representation of the plaintiffs in the case.

Cause of Action is a Washington D.C.-based 501(c)(3) organization that according to its website advocates for “economic freedom and individual opportunity advanced by honest, accountable, and limited government.”

Plaintiffs, who were originally represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, had 60 days to find new counsel after Mountain States withdrew for reasons not related to the case or the plaintiffs.

Lee Steven and James Valvo are the lead attorneys. The Colorado-licensed attorney is Michael Francisco, who while working in the Colorado Attorney General’s office helped to write the defense of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Kerr vs. Hickenlooper, which claimed TABOR was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a republican form of government. That argument lost.

This case was initially filed in 2015. It asserts the state’s Hospital Provider Fee is actually a tax enacted in violation of the TABOR. Continue reading

Jul 16

Protecting Taxpayers with Supermajority Requirements

Protecting Taxpayers with Supermajority Requirements

Cartoon workingman reluctantly paying taxes. (Photo: AdobeStock/PPD/Adiano)

CARTOON WORKINGMAN RELUCTANTLY PAYING TAXES. (PHOTO: ADOBESTOCK/PPD/ADIANO)

The best budget rule in the United States is Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Known as TABOR, this provision in the state’s constitution says revenues can’t grow faster than population plus inflation. Any revenue greater than that amount must be returned to taxpayers.

Combined with the state’s requirement for a balanced budget, this means Colorado has a de facto spending cap (similar to what exists in Switzerland and Hong Kong).

The second-best budget rule is probably a requirement that tax increases can’t be imposed without a supermajority vote by the legislature.

The underlying theory is very simple. It won’t be easy for politicians to increase the burden of government spending if they can’t also raise taxes. Particularly since states generally have some form of rule requiring a balanced budget.

Basically a version of “Starve the Beast.”

Anyhow, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, 14 states have some type of supermajority requirements.

And more states are considering this reform.

Continue reading

Jul 16

High Court decision could send internet sales taxes to Durango

High Court decision could send internet sales taxes to Durango

New revenue would help, but not solve, city’s long-term budget deficit
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on internet sales could bring the city of Durango additional sales tax revenue. But unanswered questions surround the new revenue.

Continue reading

Jul 16

Mesa County to host TABOR discussion

Residents are invited to learn more about the Mesa County Commission’s proposed ballot question to exempt state grants from the revenue and spending limitations of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Old County Courthouse, 544 Rood Ave., in the public hearing room on the second floor.

The commissioners are considering a ballot question to exempt state grants from the county’s TABOR cap, without increasing any taxes. Most of the state grants the county receives are for infrastructure projects, “so this actually grows the private sector, not county government, which should be limited,” Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said.

Pugliese also said, “This would include pass-through grants for our nonprofits like Mind Springs. If we continue to turn away grants, our taxpayer money will continue to go to the state and be used in other communities for their projects.”

https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/western_colorado/county-to-host-tabor-discussion/article_02f2c588-88b3-11e8-bf60-10604b9ffe60.html

Jul 16

Bed tax law suit gets new life

Ongoing litigation against the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, among others, over a 2009 program that raised taxes via a “hospital provider fee,” has new energy after Cause of Action Institute announced earlier this month it would take on the representation of the plaintiffs in the case.

Cause of Action is a Washington D.C.-based 501(c)(3) organization that according to its website advocates for “economic freedom and individual opportunity advanced by honest, accountable, and limited government.”

Plaintiffs, who were originally represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, had 60 days to find new counsel after Mountain States withdrew for reasons not related to the case or the plaintiffs. Continue reading

Jul 12

Motion to return Grand Lake municipal fee funds narrowly fails

Motion to return Grand Lake municipal fee funds narrowly fails

Grand Lake resident Tom Weydert, who is also Grand County Assessor, addresses the Grand Lake Trustees Monday night to express his support for rescinding the municipal fee approved by the town board late last year.

Grand Lake’s contentious municipal fee, approved last fall by the town’s trustees, was back on the agenda this week as town council members discussed potentially returning the fees already levied by the town.

Monday evening the town board voted four-to-three against a motion by Trustee Tom Goodfellow to fully rescind Grand Lake’s municipal fee and to return funds already received by the town back to the citizens who paid those fees. The vote saw trustee Goodfellow voting in favor of the action along with trustees Cindy Southway and Tom Bruton. Voting against the measure were trustees Phyllis Price, Andy Murphy, Steve Kudron and Mayor Jim Peterson.

The vote came at the end of a public meeting that included public comments and significant discussion of the fee and its history over the past several months. Grand Lake area residents Greg Barnes, Tom Weydert and Mike Tompkins all addressed the board expressing their vehement opposition to the fee.

“I think the money should be returned and fairly quickly,” Barnes said. “I don’t think it is fair to begin with.”

Continue reading

Jun 28

The big winner tonight is… TABOR!

The big winner tonight is… TABOR!  

mmJon Caldara  AUTHOR

As I’m watching the numbers roll in tonight from Colorado’s primary elections, I just had to tell you what the news might not pick up on, even if they noticed it. The big winner in tonight’s Republican Primary is our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

You might recall last year several weak-kneed Republicans in the state legislature worked with 100% of the Democrats to blow a massive hole in TABOR. Senate Bill 267 labeled a giant tax hike as a “fee” and a $2 billion debt package as “certificates of participation” as a way to avoid going to the voters as required by TABOR. The end result is that while Trump gave you an income tax cut, these Republicans took it all away, without even asking.

Tonight Republican voters made very clear – when you betray us, when you betray our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, you will NOT go any higher in political office.

Three of the anemic Republicans who voted for this grand betrayal had the gall to run for higher office. State Senator Owen Hill wanted to become a U.S. Congressman, State Representative Polly Lawrence wanted to become Colorado’s State Treasurer, and State Representative Dan Thurlow wanted to graduate to State Senator.

All three lost in their primaries tonight.

Republicans should take note. You mess with our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, you go no higher in elected office (at least as a Republican).

Join our TABOR Yes coalition right now and help politicians remember why we love TABOR!

Think Freedom,

Jon

The big winner tonight is… TABOR!