Colorado’s state and local tax burden was the sixth lowest in the U.S. in fiscal 2016, according to a recent report produced Key Policy Data (KPD), a joint venture between Public Choice Analytics and Visigov.
The report relies on an income-based analysis dividing the state’s total tax collections by its private sector personal income. The national average using this methodology was an overall local and state tax burden of 14.3 percent of income; Colorado’s was 11.8.
KPD compared the burden of tax systems across states by measuring tax collections against the size of the economy. It defines this as the “total private sector share of personal income, which is personal income minus government compensation and personal current transfer receipts” such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In 1992, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) Amendment was adopted by Colorado voters to limit government growth and to put Coloradans in control of tax and debt increases. Under TABOR, the state and local government cannot raise taxes or increase the debt without voter approval.
TABOR is unique to Colorado. Currently, no other state in the union has a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
There are important reasons why TABOR is not only justifiable, but necessary.
More Democratic – Referendums are a more democratic way to make decisions on government spending. When it comes to raising taxes or increasing the debt, voters, not legislators—who may be beholden to outside interests—should have the final say. After all, taxpayers are ultimately the ones on the hook for tabs run up by the state. Remember the whole “No taxation without representation” thing? This is about the consent of the governed, a principle so important… it sparked the U.S. Revolution.
Financial Freedom –Under TABOR, lawmakers lack the power to impose higher taxes without consent from the voters. As Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, put it:
Colorado lawmakers have all but signed off on the biggest budget in state history. The $28.9 billion spending plan invests taxpayer dollars in roads, schools and the state’s troubled pension fund.
Unlike in previous years, lawmakers had a $1.3 billion surplus to split between their different priorities. The extra money is thanks to a booming a economy and the federal tax reform package, according to state economists. While a surplus has eased tensions among lawmakers jockeying for priorities, it also has them scrambling for the extra dollars.
The Senate added a number of changes to the budget Wednesday night. The chamber is scheduled to take a final vote on it’s version this week before a bipartisan committee begins ironing differences with the House version. The deadline for final passage is the end of next week. Here’s where the money is — and isn’t — headed.
No TABOR Refund
In Colorado, the Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rightslimits the amount of money lawmakers can spend before they have to supply refunds to taxpayers. Lawmakers don’t expect to hit the TABOR cap over the next fiscal year, so Coloradans won’t be getting a refund check next year. Part of the reason for that has to do with a major financial compromise struck last year. It recategorized a fee paid by hospitals, which created room for spending beneath the TABOR limit.
Fix Roads And Bridges
The budget allocates $495 billion for one-time spending on road projects. That’s a fraction of the $9 billion the Colorado Department of Transportation says it needs to modernize transportation infrastructure around the state. But the spending is in line with a request from the governor and a compromise transportation bill approved in the Senate last week. That plan would use the money to buy time for voters to consider a citizen initiative in November to raise sales taxes for road funding. If that fails, the compromise would trigger another initiative asking voters for new transportation bonds in 2019. Continue reading →
The Mesa County Republican Party is inviting the public to come to a free presentation on the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, delivered by conservative think-tank leader Jon Caldara on March 27.
Caldara, the president of the Denver-based Independence Institute, is a proponent of limited government and plans to speak in favor of keeping TABOR intact, despite talk from both sides of the political aisle recently about tweaking the formula that limits government spending and requires taxpayer consent to use funds in excess of spending limits.
TABOR was voted into the Colorado Constitution 26 years ago, and the original intent of the law was to limit government growth and require taxpayers to approve tax-rate increases.
Critics have said the ratcheting effect TABOR has on spending has prevented governments from recovering from leaner times, especially in local governments that depend on property taxes for funding when those property valuations decrease.
Caldara has defended TABOR in the past, stating it prevents further problems during recession and helps keep governments from experiencing vast budget shortfalls. He also used an analogy comparing TABOR to obtaining consent for sexual contact in a column last year for the Denver Post, titled, “Why date rapists hate TABOR.”
Bringing Caldara to speak in Grand Junction on TABOR is timely, said Marjorie Haun, who handles publicity for the Mesa County Republican Party. Haun said she noticed some confusion about TABOR during the 2017 election, in which the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office asked voters to raise sales taxes to support their budgets in the “Back the Badge” campaign. Continue reading →
You know that your TABOR Foundation filed a lawsuit to stop the collection of the Hospital Provider tax and program until the new tax receives its required voter approval. We also had to amend the lawsuit to include all the wrong-headed, errant and unconstitutional provisions that affected the program with the passage of Senate Bill 267 last year. That measure will allow an increase of state taxes of (at least) $400 million per year, without the required TABOR vote. It also moved the welfare program that is the Hospital Provider fund off the books by renaming it as a government business.
We wanted to let you know that there has been significant activity on that lawsuit. It had been filed originally in 2015 but was not taken up by the Court for 18 months. Within the past several months, our attorneys at Mountain States Legal Foundation filed the amended complaint. They have answered copious number of briefs to:
obtain permission to make that filing,
to resist unsuccessfully the addition as Defendants of the Hospital Association, and
to add to our own list of Plaintiffs
In addition, a lot more activity has taken place with the procedure of Discovery. Just last week, I was deposed for nearly four hours by opposition attorneys, and another TABOR Foundation Director, Rebecca Sopkin, withstood another two hours of grilling. Our attorneys have taken depositions from the Defendants.
Our attorneys must also deal with the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit altogether, as they allege among other things, that there is no remedy (“relief”) for the problems we have cited. There is also an important motion for summary judgment that is in process. Unless one of those two motions is successful, we will see this lawsuit go to trial in late June.
We’ll try to keep you apprised of further developments as they occur. The speed that new steps are occurring and the demands on our volunteer time are such that we have been running out of time to inform you in a timely manner.
Thank you for your support of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights!
The TABOR Committee and its sister organization, the TABOR Foundation, are active in protecting this important constitutional provision. You recently signed up to receive informational emails from our organizations. We do not clutter your inbox with extraneous self-promotion nor do we mail periodicals. You will receive short notices only when developments warrant.
There was a time when our town only had two grocery stores and a handful of gas stations.
Before the redevelopment of our downtown core — before the factory outlet — and even before our state recognized the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), our town services subsisted on the grocery tax. Because we had nothing else.
We paid for our cops, built our roads, and ran a town government through the direct taxation of the milk and bread that was purchased at those two, small grocery stores.
But we aren’t that small town anymore.
With the addition of the Promenade and continued improvement in the economy, we are seeing our town coffers grow to more than $44 million in sales tax revenue in 2017 alone. In 2016, that number was $39 million.
Yet in spite of a healthy and diversified economy here in town, we continue to incorporate the most regressive sales tax imaginable.
A furor was stirred up in Grand Lake earlier this year after town officials announced the implementation of a new municipal fee, and now one state advocacy group is calling into question the fee’s legitimacy.
In late January, the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights Committee, or TABOR, the advocacy arm of the independent TABOR Foundation, issued a letter to Grand Lake’s town government, contesting the legal basis for the recently adopted fee, which imposes an additional $100 charge on each water tap within the community. The charge has been earmarked to pay for law enforcement and emergency dispatch services as well as street lighting.
“New receipts are to be deposited to the general fund and are intended to cover expenses that are traditionally core functions of town governance, namely street lighting and safety,” read the letter from the TABOR Committee. “Although the Colorado Constitution clearly calls for citizens to vote on all new taxes, you are trying to avoid the plain language of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by identifying the new tax as a ‘fee.'” Continue reading →
Some Republican state legislators remind us that no one’s life is a complete waste — some simply serve as bad examples. One of those bad examples can be found in Colorado. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)
Congress just proved an amazing thing happens when Republicans remember to govern as Reagan Republicans.
The most substantial tax overhaul since the Reagan years has sparked our economy. Republicans in Congress gathered the courage to face down the pro-tax media, special interests, and the opposition of every single Democrat in Congress to help families keep more of what they earn. Already tax reform has resulted in at least 285 companies announcing wage increases, bonuses, and higher 401(k) matches for 3 million workers. Utility companies are reducing rates in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Continue reading →
To comprehend how that’s possible, we need to understand the largest betrayal of Republican values in Colorado political history: the tax-hiking, debt-raising, TABOR-busting Senate Bill 267, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and enabled by the schizophrenic leadership of Senate President Kevin Grantham.
The beauty of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is that taxes and debt can grow as high as any communist would like, all you have to do is ask the voters first. But elected officials, doing their best Bernie Madoff, don’t want to ask for consent when they know the answer is going to be “no.” They re-label taxes as “fees” and debt as “certificates of participation,” so the Colorado Supreme Court lets them take our money without our voter consent.
In 2009, without asking, the state forced an extra tax on us when we’re sick and have to go to the hospital. In their best George Orwell, the legislature named this tax “The Hospital Provider Fee,” as if hospitals, not patients, pay it. The new “fee” generated more than $650 million in 2016, pushing Colorado’s revenue over its TABOR cap.