Jun 19

PERA obligations still threaten Colorado’s future

PERA obligations still threaten Colorado’s future

Colorado is ranked one of the worst states in the US regarding the ability to pay state pensions. In October 2018, Bloomberg’s Danielle Moran tallied the total liabilities and the funded portion that applies to each state’s public employee pension funds, finding that five states had funded less than 50% of the cost needed to pay for their promised state public employee’s pension benefits: Kentucky (33.9%) New Jersey (35.8%) Illinois (38.4%) Connecticut (43.8%) and Colorado was the fifth-worst in the US (47.1%). The exorbitant real debt of PERA obligations is over twice the size of the entire state budget ($32 billion) when using a discount rate that the private sector has to use in calculating its debt obligations.

According to the Foundation of Economic Education, another way to measure the shortfall is to calculate the amount of money that each individual state resident would have to cough up to fully fund the cost of providing state government employees with the retirement benefits promised to them by state politicians. This analysis shows that the 2018 cost of unfunded state government employee pension liabilities per Colorado resident (man, woman, and child) is $9,722 the fifth-highest in the US.

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May 06

State could go off a fiscal cliff

State could go off a fiscal cliff

By: Barry W Poulson

May 5, 2019

Barry Poulson

Colorado has created a fiscal cliff; the state is woefully unprepared for the revenue shortfall that will accompany the next recession. Citizens might be surprised to learn that the state has been pursuing imprudent policies that will result in a fiscal crisis when the next recession hits. It is important to understand how the fiscal cliff was created and what we can do about it.

Over the past two decades, Colorado has weakened the fiscal constraints imposed by the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights. TABOR limits the rate of growth in state spending to the sum of inflation plus population growth, regardless of the amount of revenue the state takes in.

But most state revenue is exempt from the TABOR limit. The exempt funds include the revenue from enterprises and the fees collected by government agencies, which have grown rapidly over this period. As a result, over the past decade TABOR has not constrained the growth in spending, and this year the state will spend virtually every dollar of revenue it takes in. Continue reading

Dec 28

It’s Not Too Late….

The World Happiness Report provides data and research used around the world to help shape and inform policy.

Among its findings: giving to others is good for you.  It makes you feel happy.1-8

 Since 1992, the TABOR Foundation protects the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  We educate citizens on why it matters to have a vote on increased taxes and how a formula for predictable growth creates a sound economy.

We are all volunteers.

We give advice and direction to citizens working at their local level to stop TABOR violations. We assist as plaintiffs and “friends of the courts in lawsuits to stop such violations.

The biggest trick of politicians is calling a new tax a “fee” – whether it’s for plastic grocery bags, living in a special district, running a hospital, driving over a bridge, or funding a mandatory family leave program with an insurance “fee.” We’ve responded to inquiries not just in Colorado, but in states like South Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, Alaska and Florida.

Please donate:

  • Help fund our Speaker’s Bureau to educate fellow taxpayers about their rights.
  • Help produce the TABOR 101 series of policy/how-to videos.
  • Help fund the legal fees for amicus briefs.

Please donate.   You – and we – will be happy you did.

Thanks – and Happy New Year!

Your friends at the TABOR Foundation

https://www.facebook.com/coloradoTABOR/

www.theTaborFoundation.org

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Aug 30

Candidates traveled different paths to Treasurer’s office race

Candidates traveled different paths to Treasurer’s office race

As a member of the Joint Budget Committee for the past four years, retired math teacher and term-limited State Representative Dave Young has had a front row seat to how every department of the state functions.

As a self-made entrepreneur and CEO of an investment firm, Brian Watson has spent most of his career managing other people’s money.

Despite two very different paths to the Colorado Treasurer’s office, both men believe they have the skills necessary to do the job.

As different as their experience is, what they’ll do when they get there is equally different, in everything from the role the Treasurer should play on the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) board, state policy formation, and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).

“The Treasurer sits on several boards, the big one being the PERA board,” said Young, the Democrat nominee. “Having sat on the joint budget committee, I see the financial crisis the state is in. We a have a deep hole in every aspect of our budget, and it’s because we have the most restrictive tax and expenditure provision in our constitution of any state in the union. The collision of TABOR and Gallagher — they are working against us.”

The Gallagher Amendment is a provision in the Colorado Constitution passed by voters in 1982 that made major changes to property tax assessments in Colorado, including lowering the tax burden immediately on certain types of property and exempting certain property (such as household furnishings, non-business personal items, business inventory, livestock, and farm or ranch equipment, to name a few). Most importantly, perhaps, is Gallagher limits how fast the assessed value can grow on residences. Because residential property value has grown much faster than commercial property, residential assessment rates have dropped from 21 percent in 1982 to 7.20 percent today.  Over the same time period, however, inflation adjusted property tax revenues have risen from $1.35 billion in 1982 to nearly $9 billion in 2017.

TABOR is another amendment to the Colorado Constitution. It was passed by voters in 1992. It limits the growth of government to the annual inflation rate and population change. It requires government entities to take all new debt and tax increases to voters.

“I will use my business experience to help the legislature be a positive force in addressing the budget issues the state has,” said the Republican nominee Watson about working under Gallagher/TABOR restrictions. “I will meet with them as well and work with them.  I think the people of Colorado have made clear their priorities.”

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Apr 26

TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)

TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)

If there’s one thing teachers hate, it’s Cliffnotes, but here’s a “Cliffnotes”-style explainer of the education funding shortfalls Colorado teachers are protesting.

KUSA – By now, you’ve probably read that thousands of teachers plan to rally at the Colorado State Capitol on Thursday and Friday.

This has led the state’s largest school districts to cancel class. To put this into perspective, if you got all the kids who will have the day off in the same place, it would be Colorado’s second largest city.

A stock photo of Colorado Springs, for context.
RondaKimbrow, RondaKimbrow

It’s a big deal.

RELATED | Why thousands of Colorado teachers are protesting on Thursday and Friday

Education funding in Colorado is confusing, as in the kind of thing that still doesn’t make sense even after spending half of your work day trying to brush up on it (talking from experience here).

But, like “War and Peace,” your state’s education budget is important … but also super confounding and kinda tedious (apologies to all the Tolstoy fans out there). So, here’s our attempt at a Cliffnotes version to get you up to speed before our coverage of the teacher protests (which is ironic because if there’s one thing teachers hate, it’s using Cliffnotes instead of reading the actual book).

RELATED | These districts are canceling class on April 27 due to teacher walkouts

What are the teachers protesting?

Colorado’s teachers are protesting a few things. First off, they’re speaking out against the state’s lack of education funding (some studies put Colorado in the bottom tier nationwide), low teacher pay (while you’ll see some reports that teacher pay in Colorado is ranked 46th in the country, it’s actually 31st at $52,736 a year, according to the latest National Education Association report) and proposed changes to their pension plan.

During the protests, there’s one thing hear about a lot: TABOR, and specifically, how it impacts the education budget.

So … what’s up with TABOR?

A stock photo of a teacher explaining TABOR.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, This content is subject to copyright.

No, it’s not someone’s name (necessarily). Instead, it’s an acronym for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. This was passed in 1992, and basically, you can trace everything that’s a little unique about Colorado’s budget back to this.

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Apr 06

Lawmakers Are Close To A New State Budget. Here’s Where Money Is And Isn’t Going

Colorado lawmakers have all but signed off on the biggest budget in state history. The $28.9 billion spending plan invests taxpayer dollars in roads, schools and the state’s troubled pension fund.

Unlike in previous years, lawmakers had a $1.3 billion surplus to split between their different priorities. The extra money is thanks to a booming a economy and the federal tax reform package, according to state economists. While a surplus has eased tensions among lawmakers jockeying for priorities, it also has them scrambling for the extra dollars.

The Senate added a number of changes to the budget Wednesday night. The chamber is scheduled to take a final vote on it’s version this week before a bipartisan committee begins ironing differences with the House version. The deadline for final passage is the end of next week. Here’s where the money is — and isn’t — headed.

No TABOR Refund

In Coloradothe Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights limits the amount of money lawmakers can spend before they have to supply refunds to taxpayers. Lawmakers don’t expect to hit the TABOR cap over the next fiscal year, so Coloradans won’t be getting a refund check next year. Part of the reason for that has to do with a major financial compromise struck last year. It recategorized a fee paid by hospitals, which created room for spending beneath the TABOR limit.

Fix Roads And Bridges

The budget allocates $495 billion for one-time spending on road projects. That’s a fraction of the $9 billion the Colorado Department of Transportation says it needs to modernize transportation infrastructure around the state. But the spending is in line with a request from the governor and a compromise transportation bill approved in the Senate last week. That plan would use the money to buy time for voters to consider a citizen initiative in November to raise sales taxes for road funding. If that fails, the compromise would trigger another initiative asking voters for new transportation bonds in 2019. Continue reading

Sep 22

Strong conservatives wary of weakening TABOR for “Better Colorado”

Some key TABOR supporters weren’t included in the coalition

Douglas Bruce in April 2015
Douglas Bruce in April 2015. (Denver Post file)

Some of the state’s strongest conservative defenders of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights say they have had no voice in the new conversation on taxes, constitutional amendments and elections.

Influential conservatives such as the Centennial Institute’s John Andrews and University of Colorado economist and TABOR expert Barry Poulson say they suspect the fix is in to deliver a conclusion that TABOR causes more problems for the state than it solves, and that the remedy is to weaken portions of the voter-approved law at the ballot box during the 2016 general election.

Their early opposition to the Building a Better Colo rado civic group could cause trouble for the bipartisan coalition, even as Building a Better Colorado officials argue that concerns over TABOR represent only a small percentage of the possible changes to state law they might seek.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_28849090/strong-conservatives-wary-weakening-tabor-better-colorado