Jun 14

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Should Be a Role Model for the Nation

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Should Be a Role Model for the Nation

A balanced budget requirement is neither necessary nor sufficient for good fiscal policy.

If you want proof for that assertion, check out states such as IllinoisCalifornia, and New Jersey. They all have provisions to limit red ink, yet there is more spending (and more debt) every year. There are also anti-deficit rules in nations such as GreeceFrance, and Italyand those countries are not exactly paragons of fiscal discipline.

The real gold standard for good fiscal policy is my Golden Rule. And the best way to make sure government doesn’t grow faster than the private sector is to have a constitutional rule limiting the growth of government.

That’s why I’m a big fan of the “debt brake” in Switzerland’s constitution and Article 107 in Hong Kong’s constitution.

And it’s also why the 49 other states, assuming they want an effective fiscal rule, should look at Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) as a role model.

Colorado’s Independence Institute has a very informative study on how TABOR works and the degree to which it has been effective. Here’s a good description of the system.

Colorado voters adopted The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. TABOR allows government spending to grow each year at the rate of inflation-plus-population. Government can increase faster whenever voters consent. Likewise, tax rates can be increased whenever voters consent. …The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires that excess government revenues be refunded to taxpayers, unless taxpayers vote to let the government keep the revenue.

And here are the headline results.

Cumulatively, TABOR refunds have been over $800 per Coloradan, or $3,200 for a family of four. …If Colorado government had continued growing at the same high rate (8.56% compound annual rate) as in 1983-92, the average Coloradan would have paid an additional $442 taxes in 2012. The cumulative two-decade savings per Coloradan are $6,173—or more than $24,000 for a family of four.

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Jun 13

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce hailed a court ruling a stormwater drainage fee is actually an unconstitutional tax.

Chamber hails drainage fee court ruling
Article date: Jun 12 2018

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce hailed a court ruling a stormwater drainage fee is actually an unconstitutional tax.
Drainage remains a problem, however, that will require a collaborative effort to solve, the chamber stated in a news release.
District Court Judge Lance Timbreza ruled a fee assessed by the Grand Valley Drainage District on property owners constitutes a tax imposed without a vote as required under state constitutional provisions. The chamber and Mesa County sued the district in 2016 to halt the fee following eight months of failed negotiations.

“This is a victory for every property owner within the Grand Valley Drainage District boundaries, including many of our business members,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the chamber. “It upholds the principles of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and requires the district to convince voters that additional funding is needed, as TABOR clearly intended.”

The district assessed homeowners $3 a month — or $36 a year. Businesses, churches and government entities were charged $3 a month for every 2,500 square feet of roofs and parking lots from which stormwater drains.

Many businesses were assessed annual fees of up to $10,000, Schwenke said.
The chamber remains willing to a play a role in addressing drainage problems, Schwenke said. Collaborative efforts will be required that involve not only the district, but other government entities in the Grand Valley, she said.

The chamber supports a process involving all entities responsible for drainage as well as an exploration of all funding models, she said.
Moreover, more accountability and transparency will be needed regarding how priorities are set for drainage projects, how funds are spent and how funds are leveraged with money from such other sources as grants.

The chamber remains opposed to an impact fee for business expansions, Schwenke said. Business growth improves the economy, creates jobs and adds to the tax base, she said.

http://thebusinesstimes.com/chamber-hails-drainage-fee-court-ruling/

Jun 12

Your TABOR Foundation is suing the State of Colorado

The TABOR Foundation is suing the State of Colorado over the bed tax termed a “Hospital Provider” charge, which was imposed without voter approval in strict violation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  Our lawsuit had to be substantially amended when Senate Bill 17- 267 further flaunted the constitution by increasing the tax limit by $400+ million, defining the hospital welfare program as an off-the-books government business, issuing $2 billion in debt and much else – all without any regard to the requirements in TABOR.

In late March, we learned that our attorneys at Mountain States Legal Foundation had to withdraw.  From our outside observation point, some internal reorganization appears to have been the reason.  From everything that I have seen and heard, neither the TABOR Foundation nor the other three Plaintiffs contributed to the difficult situation.

In early April, Judge Buchanan gave us 60 days to find replacement counsel.

This email is a happy announcement that the TABOR Foundation met that deadline to recruit new attorneys and the hand-off is just about complete.  Yesterday, the TABOR Foundation appeared at a new Hearing as ordered by Judge Buchanan.  With us were the outgoing attorneys and participating by telephone were our new attorneys.  One of the other Plaintiffs, Scott Rankin, also attended.  The Court approved the substitution.  We have pulled together another very strong team so the outlook is positive.  Our new legal representation is by Cause of Action Institute, with Lee Steven and James Valvo stepping into the lead roles.  Our Colorado-licensed attorney is Michael Francisco, who while working in the Colorado Attorney General’s office helped to write the defense of TABOR in Kerr vs. Hickenlooper.

Now that the legal activity may move forward, look for more communications about developments no later than the fall…..

Penn R. Pfiffner
Chairman

Jun 07

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Jennifer Schubert-Akin and Amy Oliver Cooke
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The latest Census Bureau data released earlier this year shows that Colorado’s population has grown by nearly two-thirds since 1992, one of the fastest increases in the country. 

If you are part of the more than two million new residents who have arrived over this time, there are a few things you should know: Avoid I-70 on Sundays. We are Coloradans, not Coloradoans. And the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is responsible for much of the state’s economic success, which likely drew you here in the first place.

Between 1992 and 2016, median household income in Colorado grew by 30 percent, adjusted for inflation. This growth was more than double the national rate over the same period. Only Minnesota and North Dakota grew by more than 30 percent over this timeframe. Colorado gained $20 billion in adjusted gross income over these years — again, one of the biggest increases in the nation. 

While many other states have struggled with stagnant incomes over this period, what’s set Colorado apart? Its Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, passed in 1992, which requires state and local governments to ask voters for permission before raising taxes or debt. 

TABOR helped end years of economic stagnation and laid the groundwork for the state’s future success by keeping resources in the hands of Colorado residents who could put them to their highest valued use and checking overzealous government spending. 

TABOR has protected pocketbooks and state solvency from legislators who believe they know how to spend your money better than you. Its requirement that excess revenues must be refunded to taxpayers has also resulted in more than $2 billion being returned to the private economy to be spent at local businesses or saved for retirement.  

 

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Jun 07

Judge rules drainage district’s stormwater “fee” is actually a “TAX”

Judge rules drainage district’s stormwater fee is actually a tax

A Mesa County judge ruled today that two year’s worth of money collected by the Grand Valley Drainage District to deal specifically with stormwater should be classified as a tax, and as such was improperly collected because the district did not get voter approval for the extra charge.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County, who brought the lawsuit challenging the extra stormwater charges, celebrated the ruling by Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza.

“This is a victory for every property owner within the Grand Valley Drainage District boundaries, including many of our business members,” chamber President and CEO Diane Schwenke is quoted as saying.

“It upholds the principles of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and requires the District to convince voters that additional funding is needed, as TABOR clearly intended.”

The chamber and the county sued the drainage district after customers began receiving bills in 2016 specifically to address projects related to stormwater. Homeowners for the past two years have been charged an extra $36 a year, while many businesses saw new annual charges of up to $10,000.

The chamber and county argued the additional charge was a tax, and as such required voter approval under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment.

Read the full story in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Sentinel.

https://www.gjsentinel.com/breaking/judge-rules-drainage-district-s-stormwater-fee-is-actually-a/article_57fd4c46-68ed-11e8-86d9-a35f681c4db8.html

Jun 07

Colorado Supreme Court Issues 2nd Anti-TABOR Decision in Less than a Month—Showing Why We Need Reform!

Colorado Supreme Court Issues 2nd Anti-TABOR Decision in Less than a Month—Showing Why We Need Reform!

The Colorado Supreme Court has continued its demolition campaign against the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) with a new decision further restricting the people’s right to vote on tax increases. This latest decision comes less than a month after the court held the people have no right to vote on a law that re-adjusted sales tax exemptions in a manner that increased revenue.

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May 23

Supreme Court upholds Aspen’s grocery bag fee

Supreme Court upholds Aspen’s grocery bag fee

Plastic Bags

Aspen City Council banned plastic grocery bags, shown here in a market in Snowmass Village, in 2011, while implementing a 20-cent fee on paper bags. The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday found that the fee was not a tax.  

The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision announced Monday, upheld Aspen’s fee on paper grocery bags, finding that the 20-cent charge is not a tax because it offsets the costs of a municipal waste-reduction program.

The state high court upheld a district court decision from 2014 and a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from 2015. The Colorado Union of Taxpayers, a Lakewood-based group that advocates for conservative tax policy, brought the lawsuit following the program’s implementation in 2012, arguing that the fee is actually a tax. Since new taxes must be approved by voters under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment, the group argued that the fee, which was not put up for voter approval, was unconstitutional.

Aspen City Council in 2011 passed the so-called waste-reduction ordinance, which banned single-use plastic bags offered upon checkout at local grocery stores and required the 20-cent fee for paper bags. The program’s goal is to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags while ridding the community of the ubiquitous plastic bags that create an environmental hazard when not disposed of properly and otherwise contribute to the waste steam.

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May 22

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

DENVER — Whether you’ve lived in Colorado for a short time, or your entire life, you’ve probably heard about what’s known as TABOR: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Promoted by Republican lawmaker Douglas Bruce, voters in Colorado passed it back in 1992.  Under the TABOR amendment, taxes can’t be raised without voter approval. That includes the state sales tax and property taxes.

“It ensures that government cannot grow beyond what the people want it to do,” said Michael Fields of the conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity.

Fields argues TABOR leads to smart spending with an existing budget, prevents government from getting out of control and gives people of Colorado the power to decide when it’s appropriate to raise taxes.

“I think you make the case to the people,” Fields said. “If you want to invest in something more, then go make the case to the people – convince them that they need more revenue and that’ll pass.”

But there’s another side to TABOR.

“It’s not something good to have on our books. It’s actually hindered our ability as a state to do many things,” said TABOR opponent Amie Baca-Oehlert, of the Colorado Education Association.

She says she feels TABOR is a roadblock for lawmakers that prevents them from making responsible spending decisions in places where it is needed most, like Colorado’s schools.

“That just doesn’t seem right in a state with such a fast-growing economy,” she said.

But Colorado needs money to fix our ailing roads and bridges. So a push is underway to convince voters to approve a sales tax hike this November.  Educators are also pushing a tax increase to help public schools after a 2013 $1 billion proposed tax increase to pay for school funding was rejected by voters.

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an Aspen grocery bag surcharge was not a tax and thus did not fall under TABOR – the second successful challenge in recent months.

But what’s next? For the moment TABOR is here to stay. In order for it to be reversed completely – we as Coloradans would have vote to change it.

May 21

Colorado Supreme Court upholds Aspen bag fee

When you look up the meaning of “clueless idiots” in the dictionary, it will redirect you to the Colorado Supreme Court.
SMH….

Colorado Supreme Court upholds Aspen bag fee

Author: Associated Press – May 21, 2018

A man carries multiple plastic bags. (ablokhin, istockphoto)

DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a 20-cent surcharge on grocery bags in the city of Aspen.

Monday’s ruling represents the second time in the last month that the court has rejected a constitutional challenge brought under the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. TABOR requires voter approval for all taxes.

The government can raise fees without asking voters as long as the proceeds pay for a related service. Park fees, for instance, can pay for park maintenance.

The Aspen City Council approved the fee in 2011 and has been using the proceeds for a waste management program.

A conservative nonprofit group sued, arguing that the bag charge was actually a tax.

The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the city’s waste reduction program was “reasonably” related to people using disposable grocery bags.

Colorado Supreme Court upholds Aspen bag fee