Oct 25

TABOR group sues 2 special districts — RTD, SCFD — over new tax

By Monte Whaley

The Denver Post

The nonprofit TABOR Foundation is suing to stop the Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District from collecting sales tax on food, beverages, cigarettes, advertising materials and food containers.

The foundation filed a request for preliminary injunction Thursday in Jefferson County District Court, asking that the districts be blocked from collecting the tax starting Jan. 1, as allowed by a new state law.

House Bill 1272 lifted exemptions on items the districts could tax. Previously, sales of food, beverages, cigarettes, advertising materials and food containers were off limits to RTD and SCFD.

The tax is expected to net $2.7 million for RTD and $270,000 for SCFD next year, according to the complaint.

The TABOR Foundation — formed to protect and enforce the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a state constitutional amendment that requires a vote of the people to increase taxes — says the legislature violated TABOR by enacting a new tax without voter approval.

“The legislature seems to have forgotten there is a part of the constitution called TABOR, and we are hoping to remind them that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights does exist,” said Jim Manley, of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which filed the complaint on behalf of the foundation.

Manley said voters should get to decide whether RTD and SCFD can expand their tax base. “All we are asking is for the voters to weigh in on this.”

Supporters say the tax is not new, but merely an expansion of the till the districts are allowed to dip into. It also simplifies the tax-collection process and makes the accounting more accurate, RTD said.

“We see it as simply aligning the tax base of the special district with the state tax base,” SCFD executive director Peg Long said.

Read more: TABOR group sues 2 special districts — RTD, SCFD — over new tax – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24379305/tabor-group-sues-2-special-districts-rtd-scfd#ixzz2imeezy4O 
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Oct 24

TABOR Foundation vs. RTD

Issue:
Whether the General Assembly can circumvent TABOR by expanding the taxing authority of RTD and SCFD without voter approval.

Plaintiff:
TABOR Foundation

Defendants:
Regional Transportation District, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, and the Colorado Department of Revenue

Court:
Colorado District Court for Jefferson County, 2013CV31974

In the 2013 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly enacted HB13-1272, which unlawfully authorizes the Regional Transportation District (“RTD”) and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (“SCFD”) to levy new sales and use taxes on food, beverages, cigarettes, advertising materials, and food containers. These new taxes will be levied by RTD and SCFD, beginning January 1, 2014.  Continue reading

Oct 22

Silt water district aims to ‘de-Bruce’ its finances

Silt Water Conservancy District photo
A crew of workers does repair work to Siphon No. 2 on the Grass Mesa Canal, part of the Silt Water Conservancy District's water delivery system. The district is hoping voters will agree to "de-Bruce" its spending authority, so it can embark on much needed repairs to its aging infrastructure.

Silt Water Conservancy District photo A crew of workers does repair work to Siphon No. 2 on the Grass Mesa Canal, part of the Silt Water Conservancy District’s water delivery system. The district is hoping voters will agree to “de-Bruce” its spending authority, so it can embark on much needed repairs to its aging

SILT — The directors of the Silt Water Conservancy District, which manages water rights for agricultural uses in the area between Peach Valley and Rifle, wants voters to “de-Bruce” the district’s finances in order to permit the use of state and local grants, loans and other funding sources to fix an ailing and relatively ancient water-delivery system.

“This is not a tax increase,” emphasized the district’s board president, Kelly Lyon, during an interview on Tuesday about question 5B on the Nov. 5 election ballot.

Instead, according to Lyon and the district’s attorney, Jeff Houpt, the board is asking voters to free the district from the spending restrictions imposed by what is known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1992.

The amendment, authored by Colorado Springs conservative Douglas Bruce, was promoted as a way to restrict the spending and taxing authority of state and local governments in order to achieve the conservative political goal of shrinking the size of government.

But in succeeding years, the effects of TABOR have so constrained government budgets that in many jurisdictions the electorate has agreed to get rid of the TABOR restrictions, under the general rubric of “de-Brucing.”

For the Silt water district, the goal is strictly to eliminate the spending restrictions of TABOR, so that the district can apply for grants to fund repairs and upgrades of to the district’s water transmission facilities.

“We can get the grants,” Lyon said, “but under TABOR we’d have to give it back.” He said the district already has received a $15,000 state grant that is sitting in a bank account awaiting the outcome of the Nov. 5 election. Continue reading

Oct 19

TABOR lawsuit: Suthers vs. Skaggs on Colorado PBS show

Attorney General John Suthers and former Congressman David Skaggs. (Provided by C.L. Harmer)

Attorney General John Suthers and former Congressman . (Provided by C.L. Harmer)

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and former Congressman David Skaggs tonight will discuss the lawsuit, aimed at upending the constitutional amendment that strictly controls spending and taxation.

Suthers, a Republican, and Skaggs, a Democrat, are scheduled to appear on Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting System’s Colorado Quarterly program hosted by RMPBS President Doug Price. It airs at 7:30 p.m.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011 against Democratic Gov. , in his capacity as governor, challenging the constitutionality of the 1992 voter-approved Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Plaintiffs said TABOR, put on the ballot by anti-tax advocate , takes power away from state and local elected officials. Skaggs is one of the attorneys representing the nearly 35 plaintiffs, comprised mostly of Democrats but including former state Sen. , R-Lakewood, and former state Rep. Bob Briggs, R-Westminster.

Suthers’ office, which defends the governor’s office, argued that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue, saying a federal court “is not a forum for rehashing political arguments” but the U.S. District Court in August 2012 allowed the lawsuit to move forward. Suthers appealed that decision, which was heard last month by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. No decision has been made yet.

The Denver Post
Lynn Bartels

http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2013/10/18/tabor-suthers-skagg/101780/

Sep 30

Colorado fights off challenge to ‘Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’

A court is weighing whether Colorado lawmakers should have more power to raise taxes.

A challenge to Colorado’s constitutional limits on spending and taxation was in federal court this week, with plaintiffs arguing the “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” encroaches on the legislature’s ability to raise taxes on its own.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011, pits a host of former state lawmakers and high-profile attorneys against a 1992 amendment to the state constitution which limits spending — even requiring refunds to taxpayers in cases of surplus — and also requires public votes on tax increases. It’s the latter requirement that has some lawmakers crying foul that TABOR “arrogates” their power to tax.

“Without the power to tax there is no effective government,” argued plaintiffs’ attorney David Skaggs at a hearing Monday, according to the Associated Press.

While some lawsuits argue nuanced legal theories, TABOR foes go for the constitutional jugular: the U.S. Constitution guarantees states a “republican” form of government, and TABOR’s referendum requirement tips the scale too far toward direct democracy.

“Frustration with the work of legislatures, whether federal or state, may indicate a need for representative institutions to be more effective, but that frustration does not justify or permit resorting to direct democracy,” reads the lawsuit. Continue reading

Sep 30

Voters must beware the pitfalls of supporting Amendment 66

Route 66 is a famous highway; Amendment 66 is a fiscal dead end, taking over a billion dollars yearly in new state taxes. Here are three strikes against 66 almost no one knows:

The first is their bogus ballot title. TABOR (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) requires a tax increase ballot title begin, “Shall state taxes be increased ($x) annually…?” When the state title board first met, the fiscal estimate was just under $1.5 billion yearly.

A cost 50 percent above their failed 2011 tax hike would be fatal, so the teachers union sought a rehearing. The state agreed to lower the tax estimate one-third, to just below $1 billion. It declared that reduction corrected an innocent ($500 million) mistake.

Would a private analyst making such a “mistake” keep his job? No. Should those who deceive voters get huge pay raises? No. Are they morally fit to teach your children? No.

The second scam is the ballot title omission. State law requires ballot titles list major features fairly. Tax payers love TABOR; tax spenders despise it. So state employees hid the fact that 66 repeals TABOR’s constitutional guarantee of a uniform income tax (equal protection, the same for everyone). Today’s rate is 4.63 percent of federal taxable income. 66 establishes two tax rates. Continue reading

Sep 08

TABOR is a beautiful law and a definite game changer

The question routinely asked in Colorado Springs is whether it’s time to do away with our city’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which, by the way, predates the state version. Some critics call it redundancy. But my belief is that the city’s version, while imperfect, continues to serve the taxpayers well. It’s more needed now than ever, given the leftward lurch this state has taken.

Both city and state TABORs are viewed as a major nuisance by many politicos, and by the special interests always clamoring for more spending and bigger government. But that’s just fine from this taxpayer’s point of view. Is it in our interest, as citizens, to make it easier for politicos to pick our pockets? Continue reading

Jun 30

THE US SUPREME COURT’S PROPOSITION 8 RULING, AND TABOR

Today, in its ruling on California’s Proposition 8, the Supreme Court ruled that citizens’ groups do not have standing to defend a law passed by referendum or initiative in federal court, should the state decline to do so.  By making this reasoning the basis for its decision, the Court has potentially invited grave implications for Colorado and its Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Currently, TABOR is the subject of a lawsuit arguing that it violates the US Constitution’s provisions that each state have a republican form of government:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

ARTICLE IV, SECTION 4

The plaintiffs, which include five current Democratic state legislators, argue that, by removing the legislature’s ability to raise taxes without approval by the people, has violated that clause.  That case is now in federal court, in front of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

That assertion has been challenged on a number of counts.  First, the federal courts have ruled that clause – the “Guarantee Clause” to be non-justiciable, leaving it instead as an issue for the political branches.  Second, there is every reason to believe that the founders used the word “republican” to describe even systems of direct democracy. Continue reading

May 23

TRIAL PHASE CONCLUDES FOR BRIDGE ENTERPRISE FUND

This week the lawsuit brought by the TABOR Foundation was heard in Denver District Court.  Judge Michael Martinez heard the testimony.  Attorney Jim Manley from Mountain States Legal Foundation was the principal representative for the Plaintiffs.  The Defendants were the Fund itself and the Colorado Transportation Commission.  The Attorney General’s office is responsible for defending the state government’s scheme, but contracted with attorney Mark Grueskin to handle the defense.

 The lawsuit asks the Colorado court to rule the issuance of debt without prior voter approval unconstitutional, under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).  As part of new vehicle charges approved during the Ritter administration, a “bridge safety surcharge” was designated as a fee, not a tax, and never offered as required for voter approval.  The Bridge Enterprise was established as a separate government business to repair bridges.  The scheme declares that because you might  drive over certain bridges you must pay a yearly toll, which is collected when you register your vehicle.  The “tolls” received as income allowed the Bridge Enterprise Fund to issue $300 million in bonds without prior voter approval, also required under TABOR.  Total debt may eventually be over $1 billion. For more information, see http://tax.i2i.org/files/2013/05/Bridge_Enterprise_Fund.pdf from A Citizen’s Budget for 2013 published by the Independence Institute.

 “The critical issue is whether this government can break trust with the citizens of Colorado,” said TABOR Foundation chairman Penn R. Pfiffner.  “Bridges need to be built and maintained, but elected and appointed officials can’t ignore the constitution as they pursue those goals.  Do it the right way.”

 Five witnesses; two heroes.

Two Plaintiff witnesses were Ms. Chris Sammons and Willie Wharton, who both explained that they had to register vehicles and therefore pay the bridge surcharge “fee,” although those specifically identified vehicles never cross a single Bridge Enterprise bridge.  Continue reading

May 12

Taxpayer Bill of Rights Approved by House Committee

Taxpayer Bill of Rights Approved by House Committee – Civitas … http://ow.ly/2wP65t 

This year’s version of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) yesterday was approved by the House Committee on Government, and moves to the House Finance Committee. House Bill 274 would place limitations on the annual growth rate of the state budget, tied to a formula based upon inflation and population growth.

I’ve written extensively on North Carolina’s need for a TABOR in the last few years, for example here and here.

North Carolina continues to find itself in budget “crisis” mode with greater frequency due to its complete lack of fiscal discipline – particularly during economic boom years. When revenue is flowing to state coffers, state budget writers simply can’t help themselves – they ratchet up spending commitments at unsustainable annual rates often approaching ten percent. And keep in mind, these dramatic spending hikes are not in response to increased “need” for government services because the most severe spending sprees come during prosperous years of low unemployment and fewer people enrolled in government programs.

A TABOR would place a limit on these spending sprees, because budget writers have proved that they simply can’t help themselves and – like an addict – need an intervention. Indeed, when examining state spending during the three decades leading up to the 2009 recession, we see the state budget grew at three times the rate of population – even after adjusting for inflation.

TABOR opponents, however, continue to refer to Colorado’s experience with a TABOR, trotting out dire warnings about how Colorado was decimated by its TABOR. The claims made, however, are highly misleading and have been thoroughly debunked.

Finally, TABOR legislation is very popular among North Carolinians. Civitas has polled a TABOR several times over the past few years, and the results are consistent: by a 3 to 1 or more margin respondents are in favor.

A TABOR is long overdue, makes sense, and is highly popular among voters