Jan 20

Guest Commentary: An unlawful swipe at TABOR on hospital provider “enterprise”

By Penn Pfiffner
Penn Pfiffner is a former Colorado legislator. He is chairman of the TABOR Committee.

Here’s a bad idea: hide a state government function off-budget and sock citizens with a big tax increase in the doing.

That’s what the Hickenlooper administration wants to do with its proposal to redefine the state’s hospital provider charge as an “enterprise.”

Colorado’s tax system is set up so that in a good economy, taxes are collected at a pace faster than growth in population and inflation. When government over-collects taxes, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) forces it to return the surplus to taxpayers.

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Jan 20

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Corey Hutchins
January 19, 2016

Lawyers on Thursday will argue their case before a federal judge about why they believe Colorado’s voter-initiated Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state Constitution is, well, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Since passed in the early ’90s, the complex law requires, among other things, that voters must approve of any tax increase. It also mandates governments to rebate money to taxpayers if the government takes in more revenue than expected. A Colorado Springs landlord and anti-tax folk hero named Douglas Bruce championed the amendment first in his home city, and then took it statewide in 1992. Since then it’s been the law of the land in Colorado, and has become a perennial political controversy. Continue reading

Jan 18

Mayors call for ‘de-Brucing’ Colorado at DBJ State of the Cities forum

Mayors from across the Denver metro on Tuesday railed against gridlock at both the state and federal levels while discussing local and regional solutions to problems such as affordable housing and transportation, and called for the “de-Brucing” of state finances in the way many municipalities that have done already.

Five metro mayors gathered at the Denver Business Journal’s annual State of the Cities event to field questions on topics ranging from education funding to construction defects laws and the effect it’s having on construction of mid-priced condominiums

5 Mayors don't like TABOR

State of the Cities 2016: Neil Westergaard, Denver Business Journal editor-in-chief,… more

MONICA MENDOZA | DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL

Asked about proposed state-level measures including a $3.5 billion bonding effort and moving revenue from the state’s hospital provider fee to an enterprise fund, both with the goal of boosting funding for roads, mayors said that bigger, constitutional issues need to be addressed first.

“It has to be said. Before we address bonding, we need to de-Bruce. Period. And allow, without raising taxes, for the state of Colorado to take the revenue they receive and to begin to invest in important programs like transportation, roads and education,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

De-Brucing is a reference to tax activist Douglas Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment. TABOR placed limits on the amount of tax revenue that can be collected by governments in Colorado and mandates tax rebates in some cases when revenues exceed limits tied to population growth.

The term “de-Brucing” refers to ballot measures that allow governments to opt out of the revenue limits and keep amounts raised by existing tax rates. Tax rate increases have to be approved by voters under TABOR. Continue reading

Jan 16

Fight over TABOR expected in Denver this session

Eric Fink, Multimedia Journalist, eric.fink@krdo.com
POSTED: Jan 15, 2016 

TABOR fight looms as session gets underway

DENVER – In a tight budget year in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to take more than $200 million that’s set to go back to taxpayers under TABOR and put that money towards new programs for education and roads.  GOP leadership, however, argues that’s unconstitutional.

“Right now no one can say with a straight face that our budget rules are working for us,” Hickenlooper said Thursday in his State of the State address.

A Colorado Springs state senator  who chairs the senate education committee believes that plan only hurts Coloradans’ wallets.

“When we’re supposed to give several hundred million dollars back to citizens they want to move it out from TABOR so it doesn’t hit us up against that constitutional cap and how much money the government can take in, so they can keep more of people’s money,” Sen. Owen Hill said. “That’s a non-starter in an economy that continues to be sluggish, we continue to struggle with higher levels of unemployment than we should.”

Jan 16

Part 2: Important questions about TABOR and their answers

n a special article last week, experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle answered key questions about The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

TABOR 2016Through answers to four questions, experts introduced readers to the basics of the constitutional amendment, how it factors into the state budget, how enterprise funds can move around TABOR and what the tax law requires voters to approve.

The state’s unique tax law likely will become a point of conversation and contention during much of this year. Some in government see TABOR as too restrictive a way to govern Colorado’s budget and others argue it keeps excessive spending in check.

Officials have cited TABOR as a reason for proposed cuts in the next state budget, a state group is looking to see if people would vote to change parts of the constitutional amendment and state Democratic lawmakers want to try and work around parts of the tax law with enterprise funds.

Some parts of TABOR aren’t as unique to Colorado as they may sound. To address that idea and more, here is the second of two articles — researched with politicians and experts on both sides of the political spectrum — offering some important questions about TABOR and their answers:

How many other states have TABOR, or tax codes with TABOR-like elements? Continue reading

Jan 14

Guv talks 2016 Budget, Hospital Provider Fee, & TABOR

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Gov. John Hickenlooper said his annual State of the State speech on Thursday will have something for everyone. One of the biggest topics of the session will be over what to do about the state’s annual budget.


DENVER — Never mind the state’s budget woes, affordable housing or hydraulic fracturing, the most immediate thing for Coloradans to worry about right now is one important question: Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler?

That, at least, from Gov. John Hickenlooper in talking about who the Denver Broncos should start in Sunday’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The Broncos have established once again that they are a team blessed,” the governor told the media in a pre-legislative press conference to talk about the 2016 session that starts today. “My inclination then is, given that there seems to be some level of intervention from somewhere, that would push me to support Peyton Manning. Lord knows, he has had one of the most blessed careers.”

Beyond that, the governor said one of the biggest topics of discussion this session will be over what to do about the state’s annual budget. Continue reading

Jan 12

Colorado Superintendents ask for increased funding

January 12, 2016 12:20 PM· By Sherrie Peif

Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.

Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.

About a hundred teachers, school board members, union activists and others gathered Monday at the Colorado Capitol to support superintendents from across Colorado in their effort to increase funding for their school districts.

The exact number of superintendents on hand was not known, but organizers say superintendents from 167 of the 178 districts in Colorado support the efforts, which started with many lobbying legislators to support reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it falls outside the requirements of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver, says the Hospital Provider Fee is nothing more than a bed tax*.

The move would free up hundreds of millions of dollars under TABOR and leave the state free to fund other programs such as education. Superintendents say that since 2010 they have lost $5 billion in funding due to the “Negative Factor,” a budgeting mechanism used by the Colorado General Assembly to restrain total spending on public education while still allowing base spending to rise by enrollment plus inflation each year.

 

Continue reading

Jan 12

Colorado governor’s wedding the kickoff for what could be testy legislative session

By: Megan Schrader

Updated: January 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm

photo - Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted he can work with Republicans on his plan to avoid having to give refunds to taxpayers. Associated Press photo.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted he can work with Republicans on his plan to avoid having to give refunds to taxpayers. Associated Press photo.

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper will get married Saturday in a small private ceremony, kicking off a 120-day stretch of work where he will try to tackle a bungled budget with lawmakers during the 2016 General Assembly.

Hickenlooper, 63, got engaged to Robin Pringle, 37, two weeks ago. He said he proposed at their home in Denver.

“I manned up, right?” Hickenlooper said Tuesday in his pre-session media availability. “I had been trying to talk her out of it for months and she still seemed eager. … I just looked her in the eye and said ‘Should we do this? Would you be willing to get married and be my wife?’”

Hickenlooper will be busy this session trying to sell his plan to keep about $212 million in the budget instead of refunding it to voters through TABOR-mandated refunds.

“Go compare us to our neighboring states. Go compare us to our peer states to Minnesota and Tennessee. … We’re as tight a budget as anybody,” Hickenlooper said.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, approved by voters in 1992, mandates that state spending not increase beyond a certain rate without approval from voters. The 2015 tax year is the first time in several years that voters throughout the state will receive the refunds.

 

Continue reading

Jan 12

Mayors call for ‘de-Brucing’ Colorado at DBJ State of the Cities forum

Mayors call for ‘de-Brucing’ Colorado at DBJ State of the Cities forum

Jan 12, 2016, 2:10pm MST

Molly Armbrister Reporter Denver Business Journal

Mayors from across the Denver metro on Tuesday railed against gridlock at both the state and federal levels while discussing local and regional solutions to problems such as affordable housing and transportation, and called for the “de-Brucing” of state finances in the way many municipalities that have done already.

Five metro mayors gathered at the Denver Business Journal’s annual State of the Cities event to field questions on topics ranging from education funding to construction defects laws and the effect it’s having on construction of mid-priced condominiums

DBJ mayors

 State of the Cities 2016: Neil Westergaard, Denver Business Journal editor-in-chief introduces the mayors at Tuesday’s event.

Monica Mendoza | Denver Business Journal

Asked about proposed state-level measures including a $3.5 billion bonding effort and moving revenue from the state’s hospital provider fee to an enterprise fund, both with the goal of boosting funding for roads, mayors said that bigger, constitutional issues need to be addressed first.

“It has to be said. Before we address bonding, we need to de-Bruce. Period. And allow, without raising taxes, for the state of Colorado to take the revenue they receive and to begin to invest in important programs like transportation, roads and education,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

De-Brucing is a reference to tax activist Douglas Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment. TABOR placed limits on the amount of tax revenue that can be collected by governments in Colorado and mandates tax rebates in some cases when revenues exceed limits tied to population growth. Continue reading