Jan 06

GOP leaders say no interest in moving hospital provider fee from TABOR

DelGrosso calls Democrats’ fee plan a “shell game”

By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post

A deal to move the state’s hospital provider fee out from under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ revenue cap appeared in peril Tuesday, a week before the legislature convenes.

Republican legislative leaders said at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce breakfast they won’t support the move, even if they’re promised more money for statewide transportation projects as a result.

The battle over moving the fee out from under the TABOR rules is expected to be one of the biggest disputes of the legislature, which returns Jan. 13.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and many fellow Democrats want to reclassify the hospital provider fee as an enterprise fund. He seeks to exempt it from counting toward the TABOR formula of inflation plus population growth. Exempting the fee, estimated to be $750 million in the next state budget, also would prevent the state from having to refund an estimated $156.5 million to taxpayers.

 

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Jan 05

Colorado legislators lay out very different priorities for 2016 session

Legislative Democrats and Republicans began laying out their agendas Monday for the upcoming session, and their priorities once again are worlds apart on business issues — particularly on the long-running matter of construction defects reform.

House Republicans said they will seek for a fourth time to pass a bill making it harder for small numbers of condominium owners to file class-action construction-defects lawsuits against builders when the session begins on Jan. 13.

Col Dem leadershipSenate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman lays out Democrats’ legislative agenda

ED SEALOVER | DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL

And they will make a fifth-straight effort to pass a bill that would require the state to warn, rather than fine, small businesses that commit first-time offenses of new rules that do not endanger public safety.

House Democrats, meanwhile, said they will look at ways to ensure that men and women receive equal pay for doing the same jobs at private businesses and will try for a second time to require international companies that hold some of their profits in offshore tax havens to include that revenue when calculating Colorado taxes. Continue reading

Jan 03

Group backed by prominent Colorado leaders weighs TABOR overhaul

A third measure considered would allow unaffiliated voters to play a bigger role in primaries.

By John Frank
The Denver Post

An organization backed by prominent Colorado leaders is moving toward ballot initiatives in 2016 to roll back the state’s TABOR spending caps and make it harder to amend the constitution.

A possible third ballot question from Building a Better Colorado may allow the state’s 1.3 million unaffiliated voters to play a larger role in selecting candidates at the political primary level.

The bipartisan organization tested support for the issues in a December statewide poll and recently began drafting ballot language for the potential initiatives as it prepares to conclude a five-month listening tour in January.

“I think people recognize that there’s a problem that needs to be dealt with … and therefore, there is more enthusiasm for a solution,” said Reeves Brown, the project’s director.

The move to eliminate the inflation-plus-population revenue limit in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rightslikely would include a provision to direct surplus money that would have gone to taxpayer refunds to certain priority areas, rather than give state lawmakers free reign to spend it.

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Jan 03

Colorado taxpayers will get a TABOR gift in 2016

Every Colorado income taxpayer will get a gift from TABOR this tax season, even if it’s the smallest of the projected refunds – $21 for a single filer.

But the working poor will get an extra boost from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 2016 because the state took in enough revenue last fiscal year to trigger a Colorado version of a federal tax credit. Almost 400,000 Coloradans will receive an average of $217 as part of their income tax return for the 2015 tax year – 10 percent of their federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

“These are people who are working. They are employed, they earn money but they aren’t making enough to get by,” said Tim Hoover, communications director for the Colorado Fiscal Institute. “A lot of them are working two or even three jobs. These are people who really need a little bit of extra boost in their paychecks.”

Hoover said many economists – both Republicans and Democrats – are advocates of the federal program, which has been among “the biggest and most successful anti-poverty programs this country has ever seen.” Continue reading

Dec 27

Important questions about TABOR and their answers, part one

James Redmond
jredmond@greeleytribune.com

Colorado’s unique tax law — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR — will likely become a point of conversation and contention during much of 2016 in both the legislative session and at the ballot box.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget request attributed some of the need for millions of dollars in cuts to the constitutional amendment that is seen by some as too restrictive a way to govern Colorado’s spending.

Movement is already afoot to make change. As an example, a nonpartisan group of state leaders called Building a Better Colorado has been traveling Colorado this year to find consensus on a possible ballot initiative in November to change parts of TABOR.

In addition, state Democrat lawmakers have said they plan to bring back last year’s failed hospital provider fee bill, a potential work-around TABOR to create wiggle room in the state’s budget. The hospital provider fee, which is assessed on hospitals to help pay for indigent health care, has raised so much money that it has bolstered state budgets past TABOR limits, requiring the state to issue taxpayer refunds. Continue reading

Dec 23

Economic Freedom of North America 2015

Here is the newly released Fraser Institute study (attached) titled Economic Freedom of North America 2015. In the event that you can’t open the attachment, you can find the report here: http://www.freetheworld.com/2015/efna/economic-freedom-of-north-america-2015-us-edition.pdf. It examines the freedom rankings by state based upon government spending, tax policy, and labor market freedoms. It reflects data through 2013. The lead investigator (Dean Stansel) is a Ph.D. economist (educated at George Mason University) and former Cato Institute research analyst. He is currently a Research Associate Professor at the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

The Fraser Institute is a Canadian public policy think tank. It has been described as politically conservative and libertarian. The Institute is headquartered in Vancouver and ties to a global network of 80 think-tanks through the Economic Freedom Network. According to the 2014 Global think tank index report, Fraser is number 23 (of 100) in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-U.S.), number 19 (of 150) in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (U.S. and non-U.S.) and number 1 (of 30) in the “Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada”.

You should be encouraged in our fight to preserve TABOR. The data (Table 3.2c on page 37) shows that, as of 2013 (the last data set available) Colorado is tied for 9th in economic freedom within the 50 United States. In amount of government spending, CO ranks 12th (behind, FL, ID, KS, MO, NE, NH, OK, SD, TX, and VA). We don’t fare as well in taxes as CO ranks 19th behind AL, AK, AZ, FL, LA, MI, MO, MT, NV, NH, OK, OR, SD, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WY. Labor market freedoms finds CO ranked 12th behind FL, GA, MD, MA, NH, ND, PA, SD, TN, TX, and VA. According to the report, CO should learn something about freedoms from New Hampshire (ranked alone as #1 whose motto is “Live Free or Die) as well as FL, MO, NE, SD, TN, TX, and VA.

 

2015 Freedom Rankings by State

Dec 23

Colorado budget deficit looms ahead of 2016 legislative session

New estimates put projected budget deficit as high as $208 million, forcing talks about spending cuts

A daunting number will loom at the Capitol when Colorado lawmakers return in January for the legislative session: $208 million.

The figure represents the high-end projection for the current fiscal year’s deficit, according to the latest legislative economic forecast released Monday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office estimates a smaller $157 million shortfall, which is roughly what it anticipated when it debuted a $27 billion budget plan in November. But either forecast will force state budget writers to tap reserve accounts and trim next year’s spending plan in key priority areas.

“We haven’t had a year where we’ve been short of the reserve in quite a long time, so the extent to which we are short will affect how much we have for the next year,” said state budget director Henry Sobanet. The governor’s office estimates the deficit will prompt about $373 million in spending cuts for fiscal year 2016-17.

 

To read the rest of this article, click here: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_29294880/colorado-budget-deficit-looms-ahead-2016-legislative-session

Dec 23

Clash building over plan to de-Bruce education

The Colorado Statesman

An education group, with the support so far of Front Range Democratic lawmakers, is planning to ask voters this November to allow the state to keep more tax money for public schools. It’s a proposal that anti-tax groups would vigorously oppose.

Lisa Weil, executive director of Great Education Colorado, said her group is still in the very early stages of formulating language for a ballot initiative that, should it make it to the statewide ballot and win support of voters, would separate education spending from constraints imposed on tax revenue by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, known as TABOR.

“There is no other way to start to address the funding issues than to keep the revenues that are a result of a growing economy,” Weil said after a Dec. 17 town hall meeting at the Community College of Aurora. The meeting was led in part by state Democratic lawmakers from Aurora, including Sen. Morgan Carroll and Reps. Rhonda Fields, Jovan Melton and Su Ryden, as well as area education officials, including Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn and Cherry Creek Public Schools Superintendent Van Schoales.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock speaks at a rally in support of Amendment 66 in 2013. What began as Initiative 22 was on the November 2013 ballot and would have increased the state’s income tax to raise revenue for public school spending by nearly 17%. The amendment failed at the ballot box. This year, Great Education Colorado is seeking a different path to more dollars for K-12 education by freeing public education spending from TABOR limits altogether.

Photo Colorado Statesman Archives

Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian Independence Institute, viewed the news with a kind of exhausted skepticism.

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Dec 22

Colorado Schools To Get Unexpected $159M Funding Boost

The Colorado State Capitol.

(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Lawmakers will have difficult decisions to make on school funding issues when they tackle the budget this coming legislative session.Members of the Joint Budget Committee on Monday received year-end economic forecasts from state budget staffers. One of the key takeaways from their reports was an adjustment to school enrollment and local tax revenue numbers, which will free up $159 million more in school funding than was previously expected.

Statewide pupil enrollment turned out to be lower than what was projected earlier this year. And the share local communities contribute to school funding was greater than what had been anticipated.

“At the end of the day, I’m certainly hopeful that the news today is that we can invest more in our schools,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, who chairs the Joint Budget Committee.

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Dec 19

Blake: A bad week for TABOR

Photo and copyright: Tony's Takes - used by permission

Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission

It was a bad week for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and it doesn’t look like it’s going to recover any time soon under the Colorado court system.

Two TABOR-based suits were rejected, one by the intermediate Court of Appeals and another by Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones.

The Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation had sued the city of Aspen in 2012 on grounds that its city council imposed a 20-cent charge on disposable grocery bags instead of putting the issue to the voters.

 

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