Oct 02

Program scheduled to explain tax issues, laws

A program to explain how the state budget works, how the Gallagher Amendment impacts property taxes and how the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) affects local government will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday at the Pueblo Convention Center.

The program, sponsored by the Pueblo West Citizens’ Council, will feature a presentation by the Colorado Fiscal Institute, an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank.

According to the institute’s website, it “provides credible, strategic, independent and accessible information and analysis of fiscal and economic issues facing Colorado. Our aim is to inform and influence public policy debates and contribute to sound decisions that improve the well-being of individuals, communities and the state as a whole.”

A spokeswoman for the Pueblo West Citizens’ Council said the event is being put on because the group believes “that ‘we the people’ do a much better job of governing ourselves when we have all the available information in its most basic form. The truth, without spin, without any hidden profit agenda or emotional bias, no grandstanding or campaigning.”

The event is free and open to the public.

http://www.chieftain.com/news/pueblo/program-scheduled-to-explain-tax-issues-laws/article_a1ab4e14-d2d5-5a94-be07-e170182dcef1.html

Oct 02

Pending Court Cases Ask The Question: What’s The Difference Between A Tax And A Fee

Pending Court Cases Ask The Question: What’s The Difference Between A Tax And A Fee

By Angie Haflich Sep 20, 2017

What’s the difference between a tax and a fee?

As The Denver Post reports, that’s the question being asked in three major court cases in Colorado.

In one case, a small business coalition is arguing that the Secretary of State’s office has been illegally using business filing fees to cover the cost of a myriad of government services that are completely unrelated to those fees.

A more significant case involves the TABOR Foundation’s challenge of the constitutionality of a $264 million hospital fee that is matched by the federal government for uncompensated medical care.

The other case involves a 20-cent surcharge on grocery bags.

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, requires voter approval to raise taxes but since it was passed in 1992, lawmakers have turned to fees to fund some services because fees don’t require voter approval.

The outcome of the cases could result in a change that would require voter approval for fees, as well.

 

http://hppr.org/post/pending-court-cases-ask-question-whats-difference-between-tax-and-fee

Oct 02

Taxpayers Have Their Own Bill of Rights in Colorado. But Who Benefits?

Taxpayers Have Their Own Bill of Rights in Colorado. But Who Benefits?

The unique anti-tax tool has defined spending in the state, and it may spread to more states.
BY  OCTOBER 2017

Anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce led the TABOR effort in 1992. “No one has had the impact on Colorado politics” that he has, according to one academic in the state. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

The blue tag on the streetlight outside Robert Loevy’s Colorado Springs home in 2010 didn’t signal an upcoming utility project. It was a receipt to show he had paid the $100 to keep his light on for the year. The city was facing a decimating $40 million budget gap and, among many other cuts, it was turning off one-third of its streetlights. That is, unless residents could come up with the money themselves. “I could afford to pay it,” Loevy says today, “but I have to think that would have been a stretch for many lower-income people.”

Loevy, a retired Colorado College professor, says the lights-out incident — which earned Colorado Springs international infamy that year — is just one of the many instances in which Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) has only benefited those taxpayers who can afford to pay for services out of their own pocket. Loevy has been a vocal critic of the law. As he sees it, “TABOR has had its worst effects on poor people.”

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Sep 19

Court fight over bag fee could change state finance

Some of the most consequential fights over Colorado government finance in the coming years won’t happen at the state legislature or at the ballot box, but in a courtroom, where fiscal conservatives and business groups are contesting government fees of as little as 20 cents.

In Aspen, a taxpayer advocacy group is fighting a 20-cent surcharge on grocery bags in a lawsuit that’s now gone all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

At the state government level, a small business coalition is arguing that the secretary of state’s office for decades has been illegally using business filing fees to finance a slew of unrelated government services.

And — perhaps most significantly — the TABOR Foundation is challenging the constitutionality of a $264 million hospital fee that generates another $264 million in matching funds from the federal government to pay for uncompensated care.

At issue in each of these cases is a seemingly simple question: What’s the difference between a tax and a fee?

But no matter how small some of the contested fees are, the answer could have wide-ranging consequences for taxpayers and virtually every level of Colorado government.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story on TABOR:

Sep 19

Douglas Bruce responds to “Colorado lawmakers turn to ‘fees’ to avoid Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits”

Editor’s note.  Here are Douglas Bruce’s comments about this article.  They have been edited for space and clarity.

A reporter writes about TABOR (Taxpayers Bill Of Rights) and won’t interview its author.

TABOR does NOT use the “national inflation” rate, but the only Colorado CPI figures, which are for Denver-Boulder-Greeley.

Rep. Dan Thurlow says TABOR makes politicians “cheat” and thinks a statute (Referendum C) can amend a constitutional formula.  That is incorrect.

Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer doesn’t understand the state can still spend money any way it wants; it just can’t take a bigger share without voter approval. That is the major change to its “fiscal authority.”

Money for transportation and higher education has NOT “eroded.” It just has not increased at Straayers’ desired rate, and the sources of funding have changed so that user pay is a preferable source.

Referendum C was supposed to “solve the problem” of revenue control, and end in five years.  It did not solve the fictional “ratchet effect” problem and, twelve years later, we are losing $1 BILLION yearly in excess revenue refunds.  The anti-TABOR sides’ solution is to try another statutory change to the constitutional formula.

The state publicly says its total spending is about $27.1 billion yearly, almost three times what it was when TABOR passed.
I just found out that amount does not as it includes “continuing appropriations” NOT made by the JBC (Joint Budget Committee) annually.
That’s another two or three BILLION or more than the Colorado budget shows.

Douglas Bruce
TABOR author

 

Colorado lawmakers turn to ‘fees’ to avoid Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits

By Michael Carroll  /   September 11, 2017

Colorado state lawmakers increasingly engage in fiscal gymnastics to get around provisions of the state’s landmark Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), according to both supporters and critics of the state’s 25-year-old constitutional amendment. Continue reading

Sep 19

Governor Calls Special Session

PRESS RELEASE

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Contact:            Marty Neilson                303-747-2159

Governor Calls Special Session to Fix Legislative/Executive Goof UP!

If SB 267 wasn’t already enough of an affront to Colorado taxpayers, paying for a special legislative session to fix what our esteemed legislators and Governor failed to notice in the unconstitutional SB267 makes me “mad as hell” and “I don’t want to take it anymore!” Special sessions are expensive!   SB 267 starts off as unconstitutional (multiple subjects) piece of legislation; and, is an egregious violation of Taxpayers Bill of Rights (no vote by the people) for the tax and debt increases.   Mess ups like this do not constitute an immediate problem which must be addressed by immediate corrective legislation.  Governor expects legislature to ignore the constitution and simply tack on another illegal tax.

By the way, reinstating a sales tax requires a VOTE of the people. The Colorado Constitution is very clear: tax increases must be approved by a vote of the people. Calling on all Colorado taxpayers to go to the Capitol and demand “Let Us Vote!”

 

PO Box 1976, Lyons CO 80540 Taxpayer Hotline 303-494-2400
Web Site: www.coloradotaxpayer.org

 

Sep 13

Colorado lawmakers turn to ‘fees’ to avoid Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits

By   /   September 11, 2017

Colorado state lawmakers increasingly engage in fiscal gymnastics to get around provisions of the state’s landmark Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), according to both supporters and critics of the state’s 25-year-old constitutional amendment.

Approved by voters in 1992, the TABOR amendment mandates that state and local governments get voter approval for specified tax increases, and it limits the rate of government spending growth based on population increases and inflation.

Though a subsequent voter-approved measure eased the spending cap, critics like Jon Caldara, president of the Denver-based Independence Institute, say the legislature has turned to “dark money,” such as newly designated “fees” that don’t require votes of the people, to avoid TABOR’s restrictions. Colorado courts have tended to uphold those TABOR workarounds.

In a blog post, Caldara pointed to efforts to create a hospital provider fee as one of the ways lawmakers evade the spirit of the amendment and avoid difficult budget decisions. The bill exempting the hospital fee from the TABOR spending cap was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May.

Caldara credits TABOR with helping the state avoid economic pain. When the nation went into a recession in 2002, other states saw huge drops in revenues that caused massive budget shortfalls, but that didn’t happen in Colorado, he said.

Other observers, however, say TABOR has made Colorado nearly impossible to govern.

“From my perspective, it’s an unmitigated disaster,” Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer told Watchdog.org. “It’s stripped the legislature of its fiscal authority.” Continue reading

Sep 11

Colorado’s hot property values are triggering tax cuts — and one local college is scrambling to offset the loss

Colorado’s hot property values are triggering tax cuts — and one local college is scrambling to offset the loss

Colorado Mountain College is pushing a ballot question to negate future cuts, but it may not be constitutional

In an unusual ballot measure that walks uncharted constitutional ground, the Colorado Mountain College plans to ask voters in six counties for blanket approval to offset any future property tax cuts triggered by the Gallagher Amendment.

CMC’s board of trustees late last month approved the referred measure, which would give the board permission to raise property taxes any time the state constitution requires a cut to residential property assessments.

The measure won’t erase the cut that Gallagher has already caused: an anticipated $2.78 million this fiscal year for the Glenwood Springs-based institution.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story about TABOR:

Sep 03

Judge to decide Fort Collins broadband ballot wording issue

The fate of a November ballot question that could lead to Fort Collins providing high-speed internet services is in the hands of Larimer County District Court judge.

Fort Collins resident Eric Sutherland and attorneys representing the city squared off in court Friday morning to argue about whether the content and form of the broadband ballot question meet legal requirements.

District Court Judge Thomas French has until Tuesday to decide whether to change the ballot language approved by City Council or let it stand.

The city’s deadline for certifying the ballot language to the Larimer County Clerk’s Office is Sept. 8. The county is coordinating the Nov. 7 election.

Sutherland raised five complaints about the ballot language, ranging from the lack of a comma, which he said made the question grammatically incorrect, to whether it complies with the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR, amendment to the state constitution.

If approved, the measure would amend the City Charter to allow but not require the City Council to establish a telecommunications utility. The utility would be a standalone entity or part of the city’s Light and Power Utility.

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