TABOR Emergency Taxes at the State level

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TABOR Emergency Taxes at the State level

Emergency taxes are a contingency written into the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  In response to the decline in revenues due to the pandemic economic shutdown, activists on the Left are urging new and higher taxes using the emergency taxes clause.  Unfortunately, the General Assembly has put itself into an impossible situation that will prevent the imposition of any State emergency taxes.  Legislators’ dishonest dealings in good times removes this option today. Continue reading

May 28

From An Editorial On May 5, 2019: State Could Go Off A Fiscal Cliff

State could go off a fiscal cliff

By: Barry W Poulson
May 5, 2019

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.

The fiscal cliff is also linked to a rapid growth in debt and unfunded liabilities. While limits are imposed on general obligation debt, there are no limits on the issuance of revenue bonds. These are bonds with a dedicated stream of revenue used to pay off the bonds over time. As state enterprises have grown they have saddled the state with greater debt burdens.

Increasing debt is also incurred in the form of unfunded liabilities. Despite the recent reforms enacted in the Public Employees Retirement Association, unfunded liabilities continue to increase. The official estimate of these unfunded liabilities is $32 billion; but with realistic assumptions regarding rates returns on assets, the actual unfunded liabilities are estimated to be in excess of $100 billion. Continue reading

May 26

TABOR and COVID 19: We’re All Gonna Pay

TABOR and COVID 19: We’re all gonna pay

Blog post by Christine Burtt
5/26/2020 – 4 minute read

Let’s face it.  You can’t shut down the economy, borrow trillions of dollars to subsidize households and businesses, and cause massive unemployment in the private sector without getting seriously upside down in tax revenues.

The Colorado state budget will be about $3.3B in the hole for FY2021, and that doesn’t include deficits in county and special district budgets.

If Legislatures over the years had honored the requirement of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to stash away an emergency fund, we’d have roughly $1B in cash right now.  Instead of a lockbox of cash, illiquid government buildings were determined to be assets counted toward the emergency fund. Anybody have cash to buy a government building?  But I digress….

In the Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature, raising taxes is the easy answer to a budget shortfall. The short-term exercise is to reconcile what is “essential” vs “nice to have.”

In reality, government mandated services like administering food stamps, running elections, law enforcement, infrastructure, and paying public employee retirement benefits will be protected. But other programs funded for ideological wish-lists may be delayed – until they can raise taxes.

The most likely ways to raise taxes include: Continue reading

May 19

Worst Public Pension Quarterly Results Reported-Reality Is Far Worse

Public pensions, including PERA, had their worst investment return quarter ever in 1Q20. State pensions, on average, lost 13.2% in the quarter. However, the losses are worse than reported due to secrecy agreements in place regarding their alternative investments position. These highly speculative investments in the PERA portfolio do not have to be reported now. This reality will exacerbate the financial condition of PERA, and other state pensions, and will motivate states, like Colorado, to scream for taxpayer relief. PERA’s funding ratio declined in the very good times (and stock market boom from 2009 to 2019.) The funding ratio will decline even ffurther in the current economic. The coronavirus economy will show that their financial health is now even more problematic. Colorado taxpayers will be the target to bail these pensions out yet again. Taxpayers already contribute more than 2X to PERA than private sector employers contribute to Social Security. For more, see this Forbes analysis:

 

Worst Public Pension Quarterly Results Reported-Reality Is Far Worse

Edward Siedle Contributor


Public pensions just reported their worst quarterly investment performance in over a decade. Thanks to secrecy agreements, reporting delays and valuation wiggle-room granted to hedge funds, private equity, real estate, infrastructure, venture capital and other private asset managers, the full extent of public pension losses has not been disclosed to pension stakeholders.

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Public pensions just reported their worst quarterly investment performance in over a decade. But results related to 25%-50% of their riskiest investments aren’t included. Thanks to secrecy agreements, reporting delays and valuation wiggle-room granted to hedge, private equity, real estate, infrastructure, venture capital and other private asset managers, the full extent of the losses has not been disclosed to pension stakeholders. Complicity with Wall Street allows public pensions to avoid accountability and push bad performance results off until the next quarter, year or even decade.

To continue reading this Forbes article, please click (here): 

Apr 07

“Truth and reason in ballot language!”

“Truth and reason in ballot language!”
April, 2020

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights includes good government provisions that improve election procedures.

There was a time when Colorado elected officials could push for passage of a bond, or for new taxes, but bury the cost very deep into the explanation on the ballot, in hopes that many voters might not notice the magnitude of the tax.

The ballot language would promise all kinds of wonderful outcomes.  Not only would the new revenues for the government solve the problem in perpetuity, but it would bring world peace and even make the voter more handsome!  Then, near the end in the midst of a lot of other promises, would come the information that the cost to the taxpayer would be very, very high.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights stopped that sort of game playing.  Now, the government must put the cost right up front.  It has no option but to state how much the new tax will weigh annually on the taxpayer.  For a new bond, the ballot measure must state at the very beginning how much the total new debt will be and what that means for the total repayment cost.  Only then may the government (“district”) present its reasons for the new taxes.

Another game that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights anticipated and which it explicitly prohibits is a government underestimating a revenue number.  If the new taxes exceed the estimate, the entirety of the overage must be refunded the next year and the rate adjusted downward.

Colorado constitution (Article X, Section 20), paragraph 3(c) states:  “Ballot titles shall begin, ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) TAXES BE INCREASED ____ ANNUALLY?’  (or)  ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) DEBT BE INCREASED (principal amount) WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF (maximum..)’.”  Earlier in the same paragraph is the requirement that “if a tax increase exceeds any estimate… for the same fiscal year, the tax increase is thereafter reduced up to 100% in proportion to the …excess, and the combined excess revenue refunded….”

The paragraph was carefully crafted as a good government improvement, with TABOR protecting the taxpayer in ways beyond just voting on tax rates.