Feb 25

Judge throws out Gaylord Rockies Hotel tax vote, Aurora appeals

Judge throws out Gaylord Rockies Hotel tax vote, Aurora appeals

Gaylord Entertainment Aurora hotel

An artist rendering of Gaylord Entertainment’s plans to develop a resort and convention hotel in Aurora, Colo. (Provided by Gaylord Entertainment)

An Adams County district judge on Tuesday invalidated an election used to boost tax rates within the land set aside for the Gaylord Rockies Hotel, a decision that Aurora quickly filed to appeal.

“The city did not obtain the required voter approval for the tax increases purportedly authorized at that election,” ruled Ted C. Tow III, a judge in the 17th Judicial District.

Aurora filed a notice of appeal within hours of the ruling and said the project to create the state’s largest hotel remains on track.

“We have won on the other five issues,” city attorney Mike Hyman said. “The bottom line is that the Gaylord Rockies project is alive and well.”

Aurora and other area governments have pledged $300 million in local tax incentives to fund the 1,500-room conference hotel near Denver International Airport.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission pledged an additional $81.4 million under the Regional Tourism Act.

State and local incentives, however, have faced separate legal challenges, delaying construction of the hotel.

David Bishop and Regina Thomson filed suit a year ago, claiming that the city of Aurora and its urban renewal authority violated the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, when they created an “enhanced tax area” for the proposed Gaylord site and held an election to boost taxes where only one person was eligible to vote.

They also contested the city’s pledge to pass on the additional tax revenues to the developer to help fund the hotel’s construction.

Tow, after throwing out three of the initial six claims, also disagreed that the city ordinance that created the enhanced tax area or that the pledge to funnel the additional tax revenues violated TABOR.

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Feb 24

Plan to give Windsor schools oil, gas dollars may require vote

Plan to give Windsor schools oil, gas dollars may require vote

Plan to give Windsor schools oil, gas dollars may require vote

Mayor John Vazquez may need Windsor voters’ support to move forward with his plan to give schools a portion of the town’s oil and gas royalties.

Town Attorney Ian McCargar told Vazquez and Windsor Town Board on Monday that the board can’t commit funds to the Weld RE-4 School District on a long-term basis without approval from the Windsor electorate.

“If you tie your hands into future fiscal years in some way, it’s TABOR,” McCargar told the board. Under Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, voters would need to pass a ballot question on Vaquez’s plan.

In December, Vazquez said 10 percent of the town’s unexpected revenue should be used for schools. Oil and gas royalties in the town’s Capital Improvement Fund totaled $1.4 million in 2014, meaning under the mayor’s proposal $140,000 would have gone to area schools.

Last year, Vazquez was asked by Town Board members to hold off on advancing his plan via a citizens initiative so that the board had an opportunity to reach an agreement on how the royalty dollars should be used.

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Feb 21

Ruling in Favor of County in Stormwater Utility Lawsuit

Adams County Judge Mark Warner today ruled in favor of the county in a lawsuit filed by county residents who opposed the stormwater utility fee that was approved by the Board of County Commissioners in 2012.

“Throughout this process the county has maintained the belief that the stormwater utility is a fee, not a tax and is necessary to provide storm water related services and facilities,” said Commissioner Chaz Tedesco.

In his ruling (attached), Judge Warner validated that belief:

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The utility is a government-owned business that receives less than ten percent of its funds from state and local authorities combined, and is therefore an “enterprise” that is exempted from TABOR. Further, defendant has not engaged in an unconstitutional “bait and switch” by imposing the fee and using it, in part, for administrative and personnel costs. Further, the Court concludes the stormwater utility fee is reasonably related to the overall cost of providing services related water drainage and water related activities in the service area. Thus, based upon the foregoing interpretation of Colorado law, the stormwater utility charge is a fee, not a tax and not subject to TABOR. The Court concludes the plaintiffs have not proved that the County’s legislative decision is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.

http://www.co.adams.co.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=491

Feb 13

Millions in marijuana tax revenue to be refunded, unless Colo. Legislature acts

Audio: CPR’s Ben Markus reports on marijuana tax revenue

A caregiver picks out a marijuana bud for a patient at a marijuana dispensary in Denver in a file photo.

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

Colorado voters overwhelmingly passed heavy taxes on marijuana, and the state has collected tens of millions in the first year of legalization.

But all of the taxes raised from pot have to be refunded, unless lawmakers can agree on a solution. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights section of the state Constitution is triggering the refund, putting money for schools and prevention programs at risk.

For now, dispensaries like Colorado Harvest Company in Denver charge 22 percent in taxes for every pre-rolled joint, vaporizer, or brownie.

It’s an expense that customer Jason Swart doesn’t mind paying.

“Just for the convenience of being able to come in, go to a store, and the selection — I think it’s well worth it,” Swart said.

Swart is new to Colorado; he just moved here from Kansas. But he recognizes that marijuana taxes help the state.

“As far as I know it goes to good things, Swart said. “Schools and roads. I know we got a lot of potholes.”

“Orwellian-type of situation”

“Legalize it and tax it” was the mantra of the pot movement in Colorado, and one of the big reasons voters approved of legalization. Now, though, the impending refunds are a bizarre turn of events that have taken many by surprise.

“This is an Orwellian-type of situation,” said Tim Hoover with the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute.

Here’s the issue: the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, requires the state to ask voters to approve any new taxes. When doing so, the state must estimate the money the tax would raise, and estimate the overall tax collections without it.

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Feb 12

Hickenlooper says state needs to spend big to prepare for growth

DENVER, CO - January 15: Colorado governor JohnHickenlooper talks about changes he wants to see happen for the state next year and beyond Thursday, January 15, 2015 at the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver, Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper delivered his fifth State of the State address to bring awareness of Colorado's growth and where the state is heading in the future with developments in education, health and environment. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post) Source: DP Filename: CD16STATEOFSTATE_BL26493x.jpg

Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his remarks to the Economic Club of Colorado on Tuesday with a warning for the state’s business leaders.

A major focus of his second term is preparing for Colorado’s impending growth — with 3 million more residents expected in the next 20 years, he said. The Democrat said Colorado is growing “almost too rapidly” and the growth costs money.

“We’re probably going to have to spend a bunch of money that will take the business community stepping up,” he said, saying industry leaders will need to recognize the need to spend money on roads and infrastructure. Continue reading

Feb 11

TABOR, budget and rebates … Oh, my!

My work on the JBC this month consisted of understanding and voting on “supplementals.” These are bills that bring the budget that ends next July in line with actual spending and forecasts for the rest of this fiscal year. The biggest growth in this year is coming from additional case load and costs in Medicaid and overruns in information technology projects.

We move next week onto “figure setting,” which sets the budget for July 2015 through the June 2016 fiscal year. The state of Colorado will spend about $26 billion next year from a combination of taxes, fees and federal dollars. But the work of the JBC isn’t just about numbers. We also are responsible for overseeing the department’s operations and performance. There are just six of us on the JBC, three from each party, and we’re working together very cooperatively this year to solve real problems.

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Feb 09

TABOR debate carries long-term results

Who do you trust to spend your money: You, or the government?

Unfortunately for Coloradans, that’s not a rhetorical question. At issue is the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — and it’s currently under assault.

Enacted by voters in 1992, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is a state constitutional amendment that protects Colorado taxpayers against the runaway spending that is threatening state budgets across the country and has driven many local governments into bankruptcy. It has two central components. First, voters may reject any proposed state tax increase, as they have by huge margins twice in recent years. Second, the state must issue tax refunds when total revenues for any given year outpace inflation and population growth.

That second component is now being threatened. 2015 is projected to be the first year since the 2008-09 recession that taxpayers are likely to be eligible for a refund — a refund of roughly $116 million. The principle supporting this refund is simple: Once government has sufficient funds to cover current operations and nominal growth, any excess revenues should be returned to the people who earned it and paid it in the first place: State taxpayers like you and me.

But a growing number of state politicians and pundits disagree. They argue the limits imposed by the Bill of Rights prevent the government from spending that money on important items. As a result, the argument goes, the state should keep the $116 million to spend on key infrastructure projects and K-12 education, which ostensibly are experiencing budget shortfalls. Continue reading

Feb 05

Forget Income Tax Refunds. Coloradans Might Get a Marijuana Refund! (Paid Out in Money, Not Pot)

Getty – Kevork Djansezian

Americans who are getting a jump on their income taxes may already be looking forward to receiving (and spending) their refund checks. But for those who live in Colorado, another type of rebate may be making its way toward their bank accounts: a “reefer refund”!

According to state law, Denver may be forced to return some of the money collected in recreational marijuana taxes during the first, full year of legal sales. Residents and tourists racked up $50 million in taxation revenue for Colorado in 2012.

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The state constitution contains an amendment referred to as a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR), which was approved by voters almost a quarter-century ago. In addition to requiring all new taxes to receive the go-ahead from Colorado voters, TABOR also compels the state to issue refunds to taxpayers whenever it takes in too much money in revenues. The definition of “too much” is set by a complex formula that has been established under the law.

Since TABOR was passed, residents of the Rocky Mountain State have received these types of refunds six times, with total amounts ranging from about $40 million to over $1 billion.

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