Apr 30

Colorado Springs politician once again bucks Republicans

Colorado Springs politician once again bucks Republicans

By: Megan Schrader •
April 29, 2016• Updated: April 29, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Kit RoupeDENVER – State Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, was one of five Republicans to vote for a bill Friday that would allow the state to retain millions of dollars that otherwise would have to be returned to voters under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

House Bill 1420 passed 39-26 on Friday and is headed to the Senate, where its success depends on what committee it is assigned to by Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.

The bill removes from the general fund revenue generated by a fee charged on hospital stays so that money no longer counts toward the TABOR threshold (the point where revenue has grown too fast and money must be returned to taxpayers). The hospital provider fee revenue would instead go to a separate enterprise fund, where it is exempt from TABOR and outside the purview of lawmakers.

“I began considering the switch of my vote when I learned that it really wasn’t a bed tax, per se, and that over the course of the last several years we’ve actually taken money that was not ours out of hospital provider fee to pay for balancing the state budget,” Roupe said.

The hospital provider fee was established by lawmakers in 2009 to help pay for the expansion of Medicaid in Colorado. The money is collected from hospitals, matched by the federal government then returned to hospitals based on which facilities treat the most Medicaid patients.

Republicans hammered Democrats on Thursday – when the bill was heard the first time – over the growing cost of Medicaid and the decision to implement the fee. At the time, several Republicans, including then-Attorney General John Suthers, warned the fee should go into an enterprise fund instead of the general fund.

Now Democrats agree, saying having the growing fee’s revenue in the general fund will crush the state’s ability to provide money for transportation infrastructure and education. House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, estimated it could cost state services $1 billion by 2020. Hullinghorst’s HB 1420 and companion House Bill 1450 recommend retaining that money by forgoing TABOR refunds and using the funds on prioritized projects. Continue reading

Apr 30

In Colorado, School Funding Lags Despite A Booming Economy

In Colorado, School Funding Lags Despite A Booming Economy

 
Listen

Audio: CPR’s Jenny Brundin Reports On School Funding


Douglas Bruce, a driving force behind the Taxpayer’s Bill Of Rights, celebrates the amendment’s passing in November 1992. Critics say it now limits how much money is spent on education in Colorado.

(Courtesy Denver Public Library, Rocky Mountain News archives / Jay Koelzer)

This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students. Colorado’s economy is hot. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. And shiny new skyscrapers are rising all over Denver as revelers pour fistfuls of cash into downtown bars and restaurants.

But no one invited Colorado’s public schools to the party.

“They have outdated technology, larger class sizes. They’ve lost the opportunity to offer certain programs. They can’t retain teachers. They can’t attract teachers,” says Tracie Rainey with the Colorado School Finance Project, a nonprofit research group.  “They’ve had fewer school days, furlough days, all sorts of maintenance issues.”

The list goes on. Many educators and parents had hoped that, as Colorado’s economy roared back from the Great Recession, the nearly $5 billion that lawmakers had cut from the state’s public schools would come back with it.

They were wrong.

“I was told that an improved economy would mean cuts would continue,” says Shannon Bird. The concerned mother of two school-age children lives north of Denver and has made several trips to the state Capitol to lobby for more funding. “Lawmakers told me their hands are tied.”

How is it that the nation’s 14th richest state ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student? Especially in a year that taxpayers can expect rebate checks from the state totaling $156 million?

Most Restrictive In The Country

The simple answer is, that’s what voters wanted. In 1992, they amended the state’s constitution with something called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

 

Continue reading

Apr 30

Republicans join Democrats to change hospital provider fee

Republicans join Democrats to change hospital provider fee

Brown, Coram join Democrats

Reps. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio and Don Coram of Montrose joined majority Democrats to support the bill, which passed 39-26. Three other Republicans also supported it.

A second companion bill directs where the anticipated savings – expected to be about $730 million next year – would go.

Continue reading

Apr 30

Landmark Towers Taxpayers Entitled to Tax Relief After 5 Year Legal Battle

Landmark Towers Taxpayers Entitled to Tax Relief After 5 Year Legal Battle

After a five year legal battle, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that homeowners at the Landmark Towers high-rise condominiums will receive refunds of property taxes paid to the Marin Metropolitan District dating back to 2009. The homeowners at the Landmark have been represented by Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. since the beginning of this lawsuit.

Denver, Colorado (PRWEB) April 29, 2016

After a five year legal battle, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that homeowners at the Landmark Towers high-rise condominiums will receive refunds of property taxes paid to the Marin Metropolitan District dating back to 2009 (Court of Appeals Nos. 14CA2099 & 14CA2463). The homeowners at the Landmark have been represented by Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. since the beginning of this lawsuit. “This decision by the Court of Appeals represents a real victory for taxpayers,” said Brian K. Matise, lead counsel for the homeowners. “We are happy to have obtained this result for our clients.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals determined that the property taxes were levied without the Landmark homeowners approval, a violation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). Additionally, it also held that the TABOR election was held under false pretenses. These decisions upheld the determination of the trial court, rendered in 2014.

“This decision will return real money to these homeowners,” said David P. Hersh, co-counsel on this matter. Pursuant to TABOR’s refund provision, the District must refund all illegal taxes paid with ten percent annual simple interest. Based on the State of Colorado public filings, the Marin Metropolitan District illegally collected $3,723,503 in property taxes from 2009 through 2013. With interest, the total refund obligation is expected to exceed $5 million.

Created in 2007, the Marin Metropolitan District was developed to help finance a new subdivision to the south of the Landmark development. Including two condominium buildings and a retail center, The Landmark sits on 15 acres at East Berry Avenue and Interstate 25 in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

The Landmark homeowners have been represented by Brian K. Matise, David P. Hersh, Diane Vaksdal Smith, and Nelson Boyle of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. throughout the life of this action.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/04/prweb13380322.htm

Apr 29

House OKs hospital provider fee and road funding bills

A desire to fix roads and fund schools led at least two House Republicans on Thursday to join Democrats to give preliminary approval to a bill that frees up about $700 million in state revenue for those purposes.
The legislation would re-categorize revenue collected under the seven-year-old hospital provider fee, which now goes into the state’s general fund and is subject to spending caps imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Colorado House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst debate the hospital-provider fee bill.

Most Republicans question the constitutionality of changing how the hospital provider fee revenue is accounted for, calling it a “magic trick.” The fee program collects money from the hospitals for each patient they treat and leverages the money to bring in the same amount of federal funds.
GOP members argue that the maneuver alsol would cost Coloradans the chance to get Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds for many years.
But House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst — the Boulder County Democrat who sponsored both the hospital provider fee bill originally said the legislation allocates money that doesn’t come in through tax collections and puts it toward transportation, higher education, K-12 schools and other priorities.

A coalition of more than 100 business and civic groups back the measure. Hullinghorst argued that money that will be put toward these needs will improve the state economy much more than sending small refunds back to residents.
“I believe this bill is the most important we will consider this session for one single reason — its adoption ultimately would touch the lives of every single Coloradan,” Hullinghorst told the House during a roughly 3-1/2-hour debate. Continue reading

Apr 28

Research & Commentary: Colorado’s Hospital Provider Tax and TABOR Collide

Research & Commentary: Colorado’s Hospital Provider Tax and TABOR Collide

February 8, 2016
Funding Medicaid programs has proven to be an increasingly difficult task for many states.
In 2009, the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation creating a hospital provider fee (HPF) as part of its effort to provide health care for those Coloradoans who cannot afford private medical coverage and do not qualify for Medicaid. The HPF is assessed on hospitals based on the number of patients they treat and the number of outpatient services provided.

Each hospital pays a different amount for the tax, ranging from millions of dollars to nothing at all. The Denver Post reported preliminary state figures estimate the state’s hospitals paid $688.5 million in fees from October 2014 through September 2015. The federal government matched the fees, paying $1.2 billion.

The provider tax became a more important issue in Colorado after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010. The Colorado legislature added an expansion of Medicaid to the hospital provider fee program in 2013, growing the program to roughly $2.4 billion during the state’s 2014–15 fiscal year. The fee is matched by the federal government, and it is used to provide expanded Medicaid coverage and increased enrollment in Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus program.

The amount of revenue generated by HPF has grown rapidly over the past year. Revenue in 2015 increased by around 30 percent compared to the previous year, because the state’s Medicaid program is only now appearing in fee revenue. All told, the program funds an expanded Medicaid population of around 300,000 people.

Linda Gorman of the Independence Institute argues HPF has generated controversy ever since its inception. The original legislation creating the tax attempted to hide the true nature of the tax by calling it a “fee.” Even the federal government referred to the provider fee as a tax in a letter approving its payment.

Continue reading

Apr 28

Colorado Legislators May Push HPF Through Constitutional Loophole

Colorado Legislators May Push HPF Through Constitutional Loophole

April 27, 2016

The House Committee on Appropriations voted 7–6 on March 29 to refer House Bill 1420, sponsored by House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder County) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa County), to the Committee of the Whole.

HB 1420 would establish the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (CHASE) as a government-owned business to administer the state’s HPF. HPF is the vehicle by which Colorado expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 and by which the state collected almost $700 million in revenue the following year.

CHASE’s designation as an “enterprise” would exempt the program from the state constitution’s TABOR, which mandates voters shall decide at the ballot whether Colorado must refund to taxpayers surplus revenue collected by the state, except when the surplus comes from a state “enterprise.”

If passed, CHASE will take effect on July 1, 2016, provided the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determine the program complies with federal law, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Word Games

Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute, says the bill manipulates the meaning of “enterprise” in order to circumvent the state’s constitution.

Continue reading

Apr 25

Survey: More than half don’t understand TABOR

Survey: More than half don’t understand TABOR

And at the GOP event, some criticize media, Chieftain

by sarah grasmick the pueblo chieftain
Published: April 24, 2016;

Approximately two-thirds of Coloradans don’t understand what the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is, according to the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

“When you actually look into the surveys and ask them what TABOR does, a handful of people who said, ‘I know what TABOR is’ thought it was a shopping mall in Denver. If they do know what it is, they only know one facet of TABOR, and that is that I have the right to vote on my own taxes. Elected officials can’t raise my taxes .?.?. without my vote,” said economist Chris Stiffler Saturday at a town hall meeting hosted by state Rep. Daneya Esgar and state Sen. Leroy Garcia, both Pueblo Democrats.

TABOR also limits how everything is taxed.

“In Colorado, we have a flat income tax rate — I pay 4.63 percent, you pay 4.63 percent, Peyton Manning pays 4.63 percent. Most states have a tiered system that grabs a little more income for higher-income earners,” Stiffler said.
– See more at: http://www.chieftain.com/news/4683773-120/tabor-taxes-chieftain-percent#sthash.DzpkBSki.dpuf

http://www.chieftain.com/news/4683773-120/tabor-taxes-chieftain-percent

Apr 23

Voters Can Make Colorado History in PAWSD Election

EDITORIAL: Voters Can Make Colorado History in PAWSD Election

Ballots were mailed recently to residents and customers in the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District service area, asking them to vote for three board members (from a selection of four candidates) and also allowing them to weigh in, on an historic ballot measure.

The historic measure, written in election-legalese and printed in “all capital letters” for some un-Godly reason, reads like this:

PAGOSA AREA WATER AND SANITATION DISTRICT BALLOT ISSUE A:

SHALL PAGOSA AREA WATER AND SANITATION DISTRICT BE SUBJECT TO THE REVENUE, COLLECTION AND SPENDING LIMITS UNDER ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE TAXPAYERS BILL OF RIGHTS), SECTION 29-1-301, C.R.S., AND OTHER COLORADO LAWS BY REPEALING THE BALLOT ISSUE APPROVED BY DISTRICT VOTERS ON MAY 2, 2000; PROVIDED THAT 2016 SHALL BE USED AS THE BASE YEAR FOR CALCULATING LIMITS AND SUCH LIMITS SHALL BE EFFECTIVE BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2017?

You will want to vote “Yes” on this measure, if you wish to help the current PAWSD board — Mike Church, Glenn Walsh, Gordon McIver, Paul Hansen and Blake Brueckner — make political history.

The ballot language does not include the acronym “TABOR” — the more common way to refer to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution — but some voters may feel more comfortable marking “Yes” on their PAWSD ballot for Ballot Measure A, if they understand that a “Yes” vote will put our water and sewer district’s General Fund back under the taxing and spending controls offered by TABOR.

22PAWSDOfficesWaterDistrict

But don’t take my word for it.

The state of Colorado allows its citizens to submit statements in favor of, or in opposition to, ballot measures that increase or reduce taxes, and these statements are required to be mailed out to all registered voters.  In the case of Ballot Measure A, no one submitted a statement opposing the measure, but PAWSD board member Glenn Walsh submitted a statement explaining why you might want to vote “Yes.”

Continue reading

Apr 20

Colorado’s Budget Settled, But Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds

Colorado’s Budget Settled, Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds « CBS Denver .

Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, want the fee set aside to avoid refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, free millions of dollars for Colorado’s underfunded roads and schools, and give momentum to pending ballot initiatives that would ease TABOR’s grip on state finances.

It’s a debate that some thought settled well before both chambers approved the $27 billion budget last week. Not so, said Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat.

“In this budget we managed to get by, but next year it will be twice as bad with cuts in education and higher education,” she said. The House could debate her bill this week.

Hullinghorst said reclassifying the fee can provide at least five years’ flexibility to spend more on schools and roads, and tackle TABOR and other constitutional restrictions on budget writers’ room to maneuver.

TABOR requires refunds whenever total state income surpasses a cap that’s based on inflation and population, not the economy’s performance.

 

Continue reading