Oct 06

TABOR plans for years of taxpayer refunds

TABOR plans for years of taxpayer refunds

Under the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state and local governments are limited on how much they can grow their budgets.

Under the amendment, those year-over-year budget growths are based on a complicated formula subject to population growth and inflation.

Tax revenues that exceed that cap must be refunded to taxpayers, and that’s done depending on just how much revenue has exceeded the limit.

State economists say revenues from last year’s fiscal year, which ended June 30, resulted in a surplus of about $153.6 million. That means taxpayers will see a refund when they file their income tax returns next year, which is expected to average between $15 and $20 for individual filers.

Projections for the next two fiscal years are expected to be even higher: $252.5 million for the current fiscal year, which would be refunded with 2017 tax returns, and $352 million for the year after that.

If the hospital provider fee idea is approved during the next legislative session, which begins in January, it would eliminate the 2017 and 2018 refunds, but not the one planned for next year.

The fee, which is used to fund expanded Medicaid coverage, is collected from hospitals. But because it is counted as revenue for the state, it puts the state in a situation where the TABOR revenue cap is exceeded, triggering a mandatory refund. And that has the effect of cutting into funding for other state services, such as transportation and education.

Source: Colorado Legislative Council

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/tabor-plans-for-years-of-taxpayer-refunds

Oct 06

Lawmakers struggle with the politics of state’s budget

Lawmakers struggle with the politics of state’s budget

Health care advocates like it. So do crusaders of more funding for transportation and education.

Some Colorado lawmakers believe they can fix the state’s most immediate budget issues to meet those needs by making what, on the surface, appears to be an innocuous change in how the state accounts for a fee on hospitals to fund health programs for the poor.

What they want is to take that charge — called the hospital provider fee — out from under the revenue caps mandated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and call that program a standalone government enterprise, something allowed for under the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment that limits how much money the state can collect.

Doing so isn’t as easy as all that, however, because it would negate any TABOR refunds for years to come, turning the issue into more of a political question than one of policy.

REFUND, OR NO REFUND?

Some Republicans inside the statehouse say they have committed to taxpayers that they will refund money when state revenues exceed TABOR limits, something that will happen starting next year. Continue reading

Oct 06

Evolution of the state’s current tax constraints

It’s been called “The Fiscal Thicket” and “The Gordian Knot” over the past couple of decades, but however one terms it, there are conflicts in the state’s tax policies for good or ill.

While some don’t mind those conflicts, saying it keeps state and local budgets in check, others say it makes it nearly impossible to budget into the future, leaving some of the most basic needs going underfunded.

Here’s a timeline on how the state got here:

? 1982: It started when Colorado voters approved the Gallagher Amendment. That constitutional amendment split the state’s property tax burden, requiring commercial property to take the bulk of it, 55 percent, to residential at 45 percent. As a result, taxes for commercial property are assessed at 29 percent of its assessed value, while residential has dropped to 8 percent.

? 1992: A decade later, voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which, among other things, placed a cap on how much money state and local government budgets could grow year after year, limiting it to population increases and inflation. It also required that any new tax be approved by voters. As a result, few tax increase proposals have been placed on the ballot.

? 2000: As a result of those two amendments, voters then approved Amendment 23, which called for automatic increases in K-12 spending regardless of what the economy was doing. As a direct result, about 40 percent of the state’s total budget now goes to fund education.

? 2005: To deal with an issue in TABOR that required state and local budgets to ratchet down during bad economic times, voters approved a five-year timeout of TABOR’s revenue caps, meaning any additional revenue that governments collected during that time could be reapplied to state and local services.

? 2009: Because taxes for gasoline haven’t gone up since TABOR was approved, and there was an increase in caseload due to the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, the Colorado Legislature approved two new fees. One is known as the Road & Bridge Enterprise Fund, an additional fee that all Coloradans pay when registering their vehicles each year. The fund generates about $200 million a year for transportation projects. The second was the hospital provider fee, a charge hospitals pay to cover the cost of the additional uninsured Coloradans under the Affordable Care Act. This is the same year the Legislature created a “negative factor” on school funding, reducing how much money the state was paying for K-12 education.

Source: Colorado Legislative Council

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/evolution-of-the-states-current-tax-constraints

Oct 03

Political diatribe

We saw this on Facebook:

Warning: Political diatribe to follow….

Love it when our state government tries to raise our taxes via a ballot initiative in a non election year. (insert sarcasm font)

This November 3, 2015, Colorado has an election in which the only issue is Prop BB, which states “allow the state to retain and spend 66.1 million, which has already been collected, rather than refund it to taxpayers”. as, note, is required by Colorado state law.

Hell no. I don’t care if my refund is only $16. It is my $16 to decide what to do with, not some wasteful government bureaucracy’s. They have enough money. If they did actually not, they would not be afraid to put this prop thru during an actual election year when people are paying attention.

If you live in Colorado, this November please vote on this. Either for or against is up to you of course, but do not let this issue be decided by an unrepresentative minority.

Thanks.

end political diatribe:

Oct 02

Proposition BB asks voters if state can keep marijuana tax revenue

TABOR rule requires state to refund all of 2014-15 pot money

In November 2012, 55 percent of Colorado voters said they wanted to legalize and tax recreational marijuana when they approved Amendment 64. One year later, 65 percent of Colorado voters approved Proposition AA, a tax plan for recreational marijuana that set up a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on the newly legal product and directed where those funds would go.

This November, Colorado voters will again be asked about taxing recreational marijuana.

 Proposition BB is the only statewide ballot measure to be voted on Nov. 3, and the language voters will see is as follows:

“May the state retain and spend state revenues that otherwise would be refunded for exceeding an estimate included in the ballot information booklet for Proposition AA and use these revenues to provide forty million dollars for public school building construction and for other needs, such as law enforcement, youth programs, and marijuana education and prevention programs, instead of refunding these revenues to retail marijuana cultivation facilities, retail marijuana purchasers, and other taxpayers?”

Under Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), the state must refund new tax revenues if they exceed revenue estimates published at the time of the vote on the new tax, in this case Proposition AA in 2013.

At the time, state economists published an estimate that the new marijuana taxes would generate $67 million in revenue. For the first fiscal year of the new tax, from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, the taxes generated approximately $66.1 million, below the original estimate and in compliance with TABOR.  Continue reading

Oct 02

Hickenlooper warns K-12 shortfall may grow

Colorado’s $855 million school funding gap may well grow in 2016-17, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday in remarks to a group that advocates for improved school support.
“We might not be able to decrease the negative factor, and there might be an increase,” the governor said, referring to the 2016-17 budget plan he has to submit to the legislature by Nov. 1.
Hickenlooper spoke to the annual fundraising luncheon for Great Education Colorado, an advocacy group that long has been critical of the negative factor, the formula the legislature uses to control school spending and balance the state budget.
The Colorado Supreme Court just last week rejected the case of Dwyer v. State, a constitutional challenge to the negative factor. That decision disheartened many education advocates.
Hickenlooper’s remarks were not surprising, given the court ruling and a variety of complicated budget challenges facing the state. But it was the first time the governor publicly gave that warning to a large education audience.
The governor’s comment was made in the context of brief, campaign-style remarks during which he pushed for a change that would ease pressure on the state’s revenue ceiling and dismissed Republican criticism of two administration transportation initiatives.
Negative factor history
• Fiscal year 15-16: $855.1M
• FY14-15: $880M
• FY13-14: $1.004B
• FY12-13: $1.001B
• FY11-12: $774M
• FY10-11: $381M
• FY09-10: $130M Continue reading

Sep 22

TABOR IN ACTION: Refunds Means It’s Working

Democrats like to lament any tax refunds as a sign the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is screwing over Colorado. Except,as Sen. Kevin Grantham points out in this morning’s Denver Post, these refunds just remind people why they like TABOR and that it works.

In addition to ensuring that no tax increase can pass without voter approval, TABOR also ensures that the size of state government doesn’t spiral out of control. It includes a formula that calculates population growth plus inflation, so that government keeps pace with growth instead of surpassing it during prosperous years. Refunds are the result of revenues exceeding this cap.  Put another way, TABOR reminds us that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

 Sen. Kevin Grantham

But even the mention of a potential TABOR refund and the left hits the red panic button, threatening significant budget cuts and fretting about having enough money to spend. It’s the same old knee jerk assumption that everything is underfunded and there is never enough money when that’s not necessarily true.

The truth is that governing is about making hard choices and setting priorities. The current budget is $25 billion and was passed with bipartisan support, so we know it can be done.

Yes, there may be challenges ahead. But instead of trying to dismantle a popular taxpayer protection at every turn, Democrats should try some optimism for a change and work with the revenue they are generously given by the people of this state.

http://coloradopeakpolitics.com/2015/09/22/tabor-in-action-refunds-means-its-working/

Sep 22

Strong conservatives wary of weakening TABOR for “Better Colorado”

Some key TABOR supporters weren’t included in the coalition

Douglas Bruce in April 2015
Douglas Bruce in April 2015. (Denver Post file)

Some of the state’s strongest conservative defenders of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights say they have had no voice in the new conversation on taxes, constitutional amendments and elections.

Influential conservatives such as the Centennial Institute’s John Andrews and University of Colorado economist and TABOR expert Barry Poulson say they suspect the fix is in to deliver a conclusion that TABOR causes more problems for the state than it solves, and that the remedy is to weaken portions of the voter-approved law at the ballot box during the 2016 general election.

Their early opposition to the Building a Better Colo rado civic group could cause trouble for the bipartisan coalition, even as Building a Better Colorado officials argue that concerns over TABOR represent only a small percentage of the possible changes to state law they might seek.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_28849090/strong-conservatives-wary-weakening-tabor-better-colorado

Sep 14

Effort underway to address Colorado’s ‘fiscal thicket,’ undo voter referendums

DENVER – There’s a veritable graveyard in Colorado of failed constitutional reform movements.

Blue ribbon panels, legislative committees, summits and countless academic studies have been mulled up over the years to address the fact that Colorado voters have frequently and easily petitioned and changed the state constitution.

But a new group – Building a Better Colorado – is launching a 30-stop listening tour across the state to find out what Coloradans want to do about the growing constitutional conundrum.

Not everything is on the table, but just about.

The group is backed by Colorado businessman Dan Ritchie, who has led two Colorado universities and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He’s attracted 16 political co-chairs split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. The first of the meetings (what organizers called a dress rehearsal) kicked off this weekend in Grand Junction at the Club 20 meeting.

“It’s unlike anything that has been done before,” said Curtis Hubbard, a spokesman for the group with Onsight Public Affairs. “We want to go out, talk to Coloradans, present them with the challenges as we see them and then figure out if we can come up with solutions.” Continue reading

Sep 13

Fight brewing over TABOR among the issues

Club 20 pitches ideas to Western Slope conservatives during event

Fight brewing over TABOR among the issues

By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post

Posted:   09/12/2015

Club 20 Rep. Coram

Rep. Don Coram addresses the Club 20 Western Slope fall conclave, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (Joey Bunch, The Denver Post)

GRAND JUNCTION — Some of the Western Slope’s most influential and most conservative local leaders heard an unspecific plan to change the way Coloradans vote on political candidates, put constitutional amendments on the ballot and pay taxes at Club 20’s fall conclave this weekend.

A new bipartisan, nonprofit civic organization called Building a Better Colorado is crafting its pitch to Colorado voters, who might vote on some of these changes during next year’s general election.

Looming budget crises and potentially unsustainable cuts in state services are driving civic and political leaders to look for remedies, supporters told Club 20 members Saturday morning.

 

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28802309/club-20-pitches-ideas-western-slope-conservatives-during-event