Jul 26

Fields: Legislators to blame for crumbling roads, not our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

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Fields: Legislators to blame for crumbling roads, not our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

July 26, 2019 By Michael Fields

As our state’s roads continue to get worse and worse, Coloradans are wondering when the legislature is finally going to make them a priority.

Earlier this month, a portion of U.S. Highway 36 collapsed, briefly shutting down the main connection between Boulder and Denver. The road was built only a couple of years ago through a public-private partnership – and the estimated cost to fix it is $20 million.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has direct oversight over these road projects, and the legislature has direct oversight over CDOT.

So, it’s worthwhile to look both at CDOT’s performance, and how much focus (or lack of focus) the legislature has been putting on fixing our roads.

A newly released state performance audit looked at CDOT from 2016-17 – and the findings are quite alarming. CDOT spent 37% – $582.7 million – more than its approved budget for 2016-17. In the real world, most of us would get fired from our jobs if we overspent our budgets by 37%.

But that wasn’t CDOT’s only problem. The agency did not properly track how $1.3 billion was spent. While not finding any blatant fraud, the audit did say there was “suspicious patterns and anomalies.”

This was happening  around the same time that CDOT decided to build new offices for itself, costing taxpayers $150 million. With tone-deaf decisions like these, it’s no wonder why taxpayers continually shoot down statewide tax increases.

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

Jun 19

Colorado taxpayers possibly headed for both TABOR refund and tax cut

Colorado taxpayers possibly headed for both TABOR refund and tax cut

  • PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

Coloradans are inching closer to their first TABOR tax refunds in years, according to updated state revenue forecasts released Wednesday.

In fact, state collections have been so strong that taxpayers are likely to get both a sales tax refund and a state income tax cut, according to Kate Watkins, the chief economist for Colorado’s Legislative Council.

She and her team estimate TABOR will drop the state’s income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent for both 2019 and 2020. For someone who makes $50,000 a year that’s a savings of $65. The sales tax refund amount is based on a complicated formula, but it ranged from $13 to $41 when the state last gave them out, in 2015.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story.

May 09

Colorado legislature moves transportation bond issue to 2020, leaving TABOR refund issue alone on the 2019 ballot

Colorado legislature moves transportation bond issue to 2020, leaving TABOR refund issue alone on the 2019 ballot

On May 2, 2019, the Colorado state legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 263, which moved a legislatively referred bond issue from the 2019 ballot to the 2020 ballot. The bond issue was designed to authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs)—a specific type of bond debt—in the amount of $2.337 billion with no increase to any taxes. Proceeds from the debt would be credited 85 percent to the State Highway Fund and 15 percent to the Multimodal Transportation Options Fund. The maximum repayment cost of the TRANs debt would be $3.25 billion, and it would have to be repaid fully within 20 years. Senate Bill 263 also amended the bond issue to reduce the amount of TRANs that would be authorized from 2.337 billion to 1.837 billion and make other changes.
In the Senate, all three no votes came from Republican Senators. In the House, Republicans were split with 11 voting in favor and 13 voting against. Thirty-nine of 41 House Democrats voted in favor except for two Democratic Representatives who were excused from voting.
Still on the 2019 ballot is a measure to allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to provide funding for transportation and education. The revenue would be used for transportation.
Democratic Senator Rachel Zenzinger of Colorado’s 19th Senate District said, “If we were to move forward this year (with the bonding measure), the same thing we saw last fall — with two competing ballot measures on transportation — would sink them both.”
May 06

Sharf: Opponents of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights prove why we need it

Sharf: Opponents of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights prove why we need it

May 6, 2019 By Joshua Sharf

Look at the list of organizations supporting House Bill 19-1257, the bill to ask Colorado voters to permanently repeal Colorado’s Taxpayer ‘s Bill of Rights (TABOR) spending limits. No fewer than 60 groups hired lobbyists to push for the measure, which will appear on November’s state-wide ballot.

Everyone is represented – governments, non-profits, business groups, unions, school districts, government employees.

Everyone is represented.

Well, everyone except the taxpayer.

Which is why we need a constitutional amendment protecting the taxpayer in the first place.

While TABOR has a number of provisions designed to limit government, there are three main ones. The first requires a citizen vote on all general tax increases – income tax, payroll tax, sales & property tax, etc. Fees directly related to delivering a specific government service are exempt. So-called enterprises, which do not receive general tax revenue, are also allowed to raise their fees and charges without a vote, and what’s more, their revenue doesn’t count towards the overall cap the way than regular fees do. Continue reading

Apr 22

Ending Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds a deservedly tough sell to voters

Sharf: Ending Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds a deservedly tough sell to voters

TABOR opponents, bored with chipping away at the law’s foundations, have broken out the chainsaws. On the one hand, legislative Democrats are ignoring the plain language of TABOR and unilaterally enacting a universal income tax increase without a statewide vote, by calling it a “fee.”

Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes

And on the other hand, they are proposing a ballot referendum to waive the law’s taxation restrictions. According to TABOR, any increase in general revenue above the previous year’s plus inflation and population increase must be refunded to the people. House Bill 19-1257 would remove that restriction, allowing the state to keep any and all tax revenue, forever.

In return, the money that was kept would go to transportation, transit, public education, and higher education. Theoretically, anyway. Such a deal might seem to have some superficial appeal to Colorado voters, but recent experience strongly suggests this may be a harder sell than proponents expect.

We don’t know where Referendum C dollars go

HB 1257 is Referendum C on steroids. In 2005, voters approved a temporary “time-out” from TABOR’s spending restrictions, allowing the baseline to grow at the inflation plus population formula regardless of what revenues actually did. Referendum C has allowed the state to keep about $17 billion, including over $1.2 billion in the last fiscal year alone.

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Apr 18

Fiscal conservatives see priority problem in Colorado’s new budget

Fiscal conservatives see priority problem in Colorado’s new budget

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

Colorado lawmakers last week approved a $32.5 billion budget to fund the government, but not everyone is cheering. 

The new budget includes $300 million for road funding, which took much negotiating between majority Democrats and minority Republicans. It also includes $175 million for full-day kindergarten, less than Gov. Jared Polis requested, and a 3 percent raise for state employees.

Budget writers also had to pull $40 million from some state reserve funds.

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