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.
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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.”
TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)
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.
It’s a big deal.
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).
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?
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.
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 Colorado, the 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
Colorado lawmakers begin a mad dash to the finish next week with more than a dozen significant bills in limbo and the session’s clock set to expire.
The final flurry before the May 6 adjournment is typical each session, but this year it is complicated by a divided legislature seeking elusive common ground on a wide range of issues and a series of late bills with huge implications.
The new bills include a repeal of the sales tax on soft drinks, a new$3.5 billion transportation bonds package, two resolutions to cut the length of the legislative session, an opt-out for mail ballots, the renewal of a state consumer watchdog and a ballot measure on how to spend $58 million of marijuana taxes.
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UPDATED: 12/01/2012 12:08:53 AM MST
The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association is one of 21 state pension funds that are not “fiscally sound,” according to a national investment research firm.
The report, from Morningstar Inc., found that 21 states’ aggregate funded ratios were below 70 percent, the threshold which Morningstar considers a system to be “fiscally sound.” The funded ratio was determined by dividing a pension plan’s assets by its liabilities.
PERA has $26 billion in unfunded liabilities. Lawmakers in 2010 passed a bipartisan piece of legislation that raised retirement ages for government workers, reduced annual cost-of-living adjustments and required increased contributions from government employers and their workers.
The Morningstar study said Colorado’s PERA funded ratio for its state division was 57.7 percent, the number it based its “not fiscally sound” determination on. However, some of PERA’s individual divisions were better off. The Denver Public Schools fund, for example, was funded at 81.5 percent, while the local and judicial divisions were each at 69.3 percent. Continue reading
May 03, 2012 7:31 PM
This legislative session Colorado HB1250 was introduced to begin addressing an unfunded billion-dollar liability in the Public Employee Retirement Association’s (PERA) retiree health care benefit program. Its own sponsor then killed the bill after it came under a fire storm of hysteria-tinged and false criticisms, fueled by one-sided media coverage.
Colorado taxpayers lost an important opportunity for the Legislature to begin the fundamental reforms required to put PERA on a sustainable fiscal path. Instead PERA will continue to carry huge unfunded liabilities that in the absence of reform will eventually require a taxpayer bailout or PERA retirees being denied their promised benefits.
About a dozen years ago, PERA established a health care program for people who retire before age 65 and no longer are covered by their government employer for health insurance. Local governments, school districts and state government contribute annually. The program is a type of “defined benefit.” In other words, a promise with no cap to the cost.
The PERA health benefit also gives retirees a direct premium subsidy even after they turn 65 and begin using the taxpayer-supplied Medicare.
HB 1250 would have changed the program from an open-ended promise to pay retirees whatever it takes, to a $230 fixed subsidy — the amount they receive today. Additionally, eligibility for PERA’s retiree health insurance would have been restricted to those 65 years of age and under, and thus not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Continue reading