Oct 03

Political diatribe

We saw this on Facebook:

Warning: Political diatribe to follow….

Love it when our state government tries to raise our taxes via a ballot initiative in a non election year. (insert sarcasm font)

This November 3, 2015, Colorado has an election in which the only issue is Prop BB, which states “allow the state to retain and spend 66.1 million, which has already been collected, rather than refund it to taxpayers”. as, note, is required by Colorado state law.

Hell no. I don’t care if my refund is only $16. It is my $16 to decide what to do with, not some wasteful government bureaucracy’s. They have enough money. If they did actually not, they would not be afraid to put this prop thru during an actual election year when people are paying attention.

If you live in Colorado, this November please vote on this. Either for or against is up to you of course, but do not let this issue be decided by an unrepresentative minority.


end political diatribe:

Oct 02

Proposition BB asks voters if state can keep marijuana tax revenue

TABOR rule requires state to refund all of 2014-15 pot money

In November 2012, 55 percent of Colorado voters said they wanted to legalize and tax recreational marijuana when they approved Amendment 64. One year later, 65 percent of Colorado voters approved Proposition AA, a tax plan for recreational marijuana that set up a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on the newly legal product and directed where those funds would go.

This November, Colorado voters will again be asked about taxing recreational marijuana.

 Proposition BB is the only statewide ballot measure to be voted on Nov. 3, and the language voters will see is as follows:

“May the state retain and spend state revenues that otherwise would be refunded for exceeding an estimate included in the ballot information booklet for Proposition AA and use these revenues to provide forty million dollars for public school building construction and for other needs, such as law enforcement, youth programs, and marijuana education and prevention programs, instead of refunding these revenues to retail marijuana cultivation facilities, retail marijuana purchasers, and other taxpayers?”

Under Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), the state must refund new tax revenues if they exceed revenue estimates published at the time of the vote on the new tax, in this case Proposition AA in 2013.

At the time, state economists published an estimate that the new marijuana taxes would generate $67 million in revenue. For the first fiscal year of the new tax, from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, the taxes generated approximately $66.1 million, below the original estimate and in compliance with TABOR.  Continue reading

Oct 02

Hickenlooper warns K-12 shortfall may grow

Colorado’s $855 million school funding gap may well grow in 2016-17, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday in remarks to a group that advocates for improved school support.
“We might not be able to decrease the negative factor, and there might be an increase,” the governor said, referring to the 2016-17 budget plan he has to submit to the legislature by Nov. 1.
Hickenlooper spoke to the annual fundraising luncheon for Great Education Colorado, an advocacy group that long has been critical of the negative factor, the formula the legislature uses to control school spending and balance the state budget.
The Colorado Supreme Court just last week rejected the case of Dwyer v. State, a constitutional challenge to the negative factor. That decision disheartened many education advocates.
Hickenlooper’s remarks were not surprising, given the court ruling and a variety of complicated budget challenges facing the state. But it was the first time the governor publicly gave that warning to a large education audience.
The governor’s comment was made in the context of brief, campaign-style remarks during which he pushed for a change that would ease pressure on the state’s revenue ceiling and dismissed Republican criticism of two administration transportation initiatives.
Negative factor history
• Fiscal year 15-16: $855.1M
• FY14-15: $880M
• FY13-14: $1.004B
• FY12-13: $1.001B
• FY11-12: $774M
• FY10-11: $381M
• FY09-10: $130M Continue reading

Sep 22

TABOR IN ACTION: Refunds Means It’s Working

Democrats like to lament any tax refunds as a sign the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is screwing over Colorado. Except,as Sen. Kevin Grantham points out in this morning’s Denver Post, these refunds just remind people why they like TABOR and that it works.

In addition to ensuring that no tax increase can pass without voter approval, TABOR also ensures that the size of state government doesn’t spiral out of control. It includes a formula that calculates population growth plus inflation, so that government keeps pace with growth instead of surpassing it during prosperous years. Refunds are the result of revenues exceeding this cap.  Put another way, TABOR reminds us that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

 Sen. Kevin Grantham

But even the mention of a potential TABOR refund and the left hits the red panic button, threatening significant budget cuts and fretting about having enough money to spend. It’s the same old knee jerk assumption that everything is underfunded and there is never enough money when that’s not necessarily true.

The truth is that governing is about making hard choices and setting priorities. The current budget is $25 billion and was passed with bipartisan support, so we know it can be done.

Yes, there may be challenges ahead. But instead of trying to dismantle a popular taxpayer protection at every turn, Democrats should try some optimism for a change and work with the revenue they are generously given by the people of this state.


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.

“This is just a new name and a reformulation of the same old TABOR haters,” said Douglas Bruce, who wrote the 1992 constitutional amendment that requires lawmakers to gain voter approval for new taxes and that rebates some tax money when tax revenue exceeds population growth and inflation.

Bruce, Poulson and Andrews say their input has not been solicited.

“They’re putting out feelers to see if there’s something they can put past the voters to do the bidding of special interest for another attempt to weaken protections for the citizens,” Bruce said.

Continue reading

Sep 14

Effort underway to address Colorado’s ‘fiscal thicket,’ undo voter referendums

DENVER – There’s a veritable graveyard in Colorado of failed constitutional reform movements.

Blue ribbon panels, legislative committees, summits and countless academic studies have been mulled up over the years to address the fact that Colorado voters have frequently and easily petitioned and changed the state constitution.

But a new group – Building a Better Colorado – is launching a 30-stop listening tour across the state to find out what Coloradans want to do about the growing constitutional conundrum.

Not everything is on the table, but just about.

The group is backed by Colorado businessman Dan Ritchie, who has led two Colorado universities and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He’s attracted 16 political co-chairs split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. The first of the meetings (what organizers called a dress rehearsal) kicked off this weekend in Grand Junction at the Club 20 meeting.

“It’s unlike anything that has been done before,” said Curtis Hubbard, a spokesman for the group with Onsight Public Affairs. “We want to go out, talk to Coloradans, present them with the challenges as we see them and then figure out if we can come up with solutions.” Continue reading

Sep 13

Fight brewing over TABOR among the issues

Club 20 pitches ideas to Western Slope conservatives during event

Fight brewing over TABOR among the issues

By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post

Posted:   09/12/2015

Club 20 Rep. Coram

Rep. Don Coram addresses the Club 20 Western Slope fall conclave, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (Joey Bunch, The Denver Post)

GRAND JUNCTION — Some of the Western Slope’s most influential and most conservative local leaders heard an unspecific plan to change the way Coloradans vote on political candidates, put constitutional amendments on the ballot and pay taxes at Club 20’s fall conclave this weekend.

A new bipartisan, nonprofit civic organization called Building a Better Colorado is crafting its pitch to Colorado voters, who might vote on some of these changes during next year’s general election.

Looming budget crises and potentially unsustainable cuts in state services are driving civic and political leaders to look for remedies, supporters told Club 20 members Saturday morning.

“I hope this is the right conversation,” said Building a Better Colorado member Reeves Brown, the former Club 20 executive director. “I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. We’re giving control to the people to determine that, but what I do know is the path we’re going on is not good for the state. There’s got to be a better way.”


Continue reading

Sep 12

Are business license fees a tax subject to TABOR? Denver District Judge will decide

Denver District Court Judge Bruce Jones will decide if the money collected from business owners is a fee or a tax, an answer that “will affect policy for years to come,” said Tony Gagliardi, Denver director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office since 1983 has collected fees from businesses and used the money to pay for all of the activities run by the office, including elections. The funding structure of the office, which is unique in the state, was set up long before the first utterance of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which was voter-approved in 1992 and says voters get to decide on new taxes and tax increases.

NFIB, on behalf of its members, filed a lawsuit in 2014 against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The office is now held by Wayne Williams, who was in court Friday for a hearing where Judge Jones heard arguments of the fee/tax issue.

At the heart of NFIB’s argument is that fees, which are not subject to TABOR, are intended to defray the costs of a particular government service like processing business licenses. A tax is designed to raise revenues to defray the general expense of government.

The Secretary of State’s office collects about $20 million a year in fees from businesses that are filing required forms, but only about 11 percent of that is needed to oversee the business-licensing program. The rest of the money pays for elections, bingo and raffle regulation and other functions that aren’t related to business, said Jason Dunn, attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who represents NFIB.

Judge Jones put it this way: “At what point did you wake up and realize this was not a fee?” directing his questions to Dunn. “What was the clarion call?” Continue reading

Sep 02

CSU study finds 80 percent of Colorado taxpayers pay more because of TABOR

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was supposed to keep money in people’s pockets, but 80 percent of Coloradans actually pay more in taxes to supplement their local schools, according to a study released Tuesday by the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University.

“Since the early 1990s, Colorado has enacted layers of reform in pursuit of two conflicting goals – lower property taxes and well-funded public schools,” said Phyllis Resnick, lead economist at the center and lead author of a paper the research for the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, “Measuring the Impact of Tax and Expenditure Limits on Public School Finance in Colorado.”The Lincoln Institute is a private think tank that studies land taxes and use.

“The result is greater inequality and inconsistency, and surprisingly, a greater tax burden for most Coloradans.”

That finding contrasts sharply with research and reports from the libertarian-leaning Fiscal Policy Center at Independence Institute in Denver.

“The challenge Colorado faces is serious and
deserves real answers, not budget gimmicks and
phantom savings. TABOR is not the cause of the
problem, but rather has averted more serious
problem,” a 2005 Independence Institute issue paper titled “Priority Colorado: Balancing the Budget while Preserving TABOR and Colorado’s Quality of Life.” Continue reading

Sep 02

Carroll: Averting a Colorado budget smashup

Why don’t we save the esteemed Dan Ritchie and his bipartisan group of civic-minded bigwigs a lot of time and trouble?

The former chancellor at the University of Denver and his allies who’ve founded Building a Better Colorado are going to spend months in meetings and outreach trying to identify measures for next year’s ballot to address the unique challenges in governing this state.

They’ve got former governors, senators and mayors on board, not to mention current Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But why overthink this? Why not strike straight for the Gordian Knot? Colorado may be one of the fastest-growing states, but it is nevertheless headed for a budgetary smashup in the near future that will make it feel like a recession at the Capitol — for reasons I’ll get to.

Two things need to be done — one that will annoy conservatives and another that will annoy liberals. And these actions need to be done in tandem, with bipartisan support, or neither is likely to succeed.

First, we need a Son of Referendum C — the 2005 ballot measure that allowed the state, for five years, to keep the revenue it collected over and above the limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Continue reading