Sep 12

Are business license fees a tax subject to TABOR? Denver District Judge will decide

Denver District Court Judge Bruce Jones will decide if the money collected from business owners is a fee or a tax, an answer that “will affect policy for years to come,” said Tony Gagliardi, Denver director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office since 1983 has collected fees from businesses and used the money to pay for all of the activities run by the office, including elections. The funding structure of the office, which is unique in the state, was set up long before the first utterance of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which was voter-approved in 1992 and says voters get to decide on new taxes and tax increases.

NFIB, on behalf of its members, filed a lawsuit in 2014 against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The office is now held by Wayne Williams, who was in court Friday for a hearing where Judge Jones heard arguments of the fee/tax issue.

At the heart of NFIB’s argument is that fees, which are not subject to TABOR, are intended to defray the costs of a particular government service like processing business licenses. A tax is designed to raise revenues to defray the general expense of government.

The Secretary of State’s office collects about $20 million a year in fees from businesses that are filing required forms, but only about 11 percent of that is needed to oversee the business-licensing program. The rest of the money pays for elections, bingo and raffle regulation and other functions that aren’t related to business, said Jason Dunn, attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who represents NFIB.

Judge Jones put it this way: “At what point did you wake up and realize this was not a fee?” directing his questions to Dunn. “What was the clarion call?” Continue reading

Sep 02

CSU study finds 80 percent of Colorado taxpayers pay more because of TABOR

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was supposed to keep money in people’s pockets, but 80 percent of Coloradans actually pay more in taxes to supplement their local schools, according to a study released Tuesday by the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University.

“Since the early 1990s, Colorado has enacted layers of reform in pursuit of two conflicting goals – lower property taxes and well-funded public schools,” said Phyllis Resnick, lead economist at the center and lead author of a paper the research for the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, “Measuring the Impact of Tax and Expenditure Limits on Public School Finance in Colorado.”The Lincoln Institute is a private think tank that studies land taxes and use.

“The result is greater inequality and inconsistency, and surprisingly, a greater tax burden for most Coloradans.”

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2015/09/01/csu-study-finds-80-percent-of-colorado-taxpayers-pay-more-because-of-tabor/122792/

Sep 02

Carroll: Averting a Colorado budget smashup

Why don’t we save the esteemed Dan Ritchie and his bipartisan group of civic-minded bigwigs a lot of time and trouble?

The former chancellor at the University of Denver and his allies who’ve founded Building a Better Colorado are going to spend months in meetings and outreach trying to identify measures for next year’s ballot to address the unique challenges in governing this state.

They’ve got former governors, senators and mayors on board, not to mention current Gov. John Hickenlooper.

 

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/carroll/ci_28720814/carroll-averting-colorado-budget-smashup

Sep 02

Blake: Sabotaging TABOR comes down to a single subject

Blake: Sabotaging TABOR comes down to a single subject

When it comes to sabotaging TABOR, term limits and the initiative process, the usual suspects tend to round themselves up.

The latest group, called “Building a Better Colorado,” is fronted by the otherwise estimable Dan Ritchie, who served 15 years as chancellor of the University of Denver, taking no pay and donating his $50 million ranch to the school.

The organization intends to hold “town hall meetings” throughout the state and produce a report recommending changes by year’s end.

Presumably most of these changes would necessitate ballot initiatives, since it’s hard to get the two-thirds majorities needed in the legislature to place referendums.

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

By proposing initiatives they are going to have to confront the awkward single-subject rule. More on that later.

Despite the clarity of their goals, the reformers like to talk in tiptoe-through-the-tulips terms. “It is subtle,” Gail Klapper of the Colorado Forum told The Denver Post, adding the discussions are about “nuanced changes” allowing Colorado “to move forward in the way we all want it to go.”

The Colorado Forum is just one of several civic groups behind Ritchie’s efforts. Its goals aren’t that subtle. It says on its Web site that “Colorado’s fiscal system has a structural imbalance — created by inherently conflicting constitutional mandates — that will continue to result in a widening gap between General Fund revenue and necessary expenditures.”

However “necessary” might be defined. The Forum goes on to recommend that TABOR-mandated refunds to the people be postponed and “revenue sources” not subject to the revenue cap be considered. Presumably that means imposing more “fees” instead of taxes that require a popular vote.

Continue reading

Aug 24

Aurora right to walk away from appeal on Gaylord tax vote

AURORA, CO. - APRIL 21: Dan Steel of Mortenson Construction surveys land for the Gaylord Rockies Hotel development Tuesday morning, April 21, 2015. The controversial hotel will be Colorado's largest at 1,500 rooms and will take 36 months to complete. (Photo By Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

AURORA, CO. – APRIL 21: Dan Steel of Mortenson Construction surveys land for the Gaylord Rockies Hotel development Tuesday morning, April 21, 2015. The controversial hotel will be Colorado’s largest at 1,500 rooms and will take 36 months to complete. (Photo By Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

Aurora officials last week were wise to walk away from an appeal of a February court ruling that invalidated the creation of a special tax district for the Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Conference Center.

The creation of the district was a farce and clearly subverted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which stipulates that local governments cannot raise taxes without voter approval.

Only one voter cast a ballot in the election in 2011 that created the taxing district, which would have collected increased lodger taxes and admission taxes on land set aside for the hotel.

That voter wasn’t even a resident of the city but a representative of the owner of the land where the hotel is to be built.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:
http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_28682010/aurora-right-walk-away-from-appeal-gaylord-tax

Aug 23

Colorado leaders to review TABOR, key political issues

Exclusive: Colorado leaders to review TABOR, key political issues

“Building a Better Colorado” may offer ballot measures in 2016

By John Frank
The Denver Post

POSTED:   08/23/2015

(Photos: shutterstock.com, Denver Post file photo; photo illustration by Matt Swaney, The Denver Post)

 

A new organization led by prominent civic and business leaders is preparing to launch a campaign to tackle Colorado’s thorniest political problems as part of a project that may give rise to ballot measures in 2016.

Dubbed “Building a Better Colorado,” the bipartisan push will debut in September and feature a 40-stop statewide tour this fall to discuss topics ranging from term limits for lawmakers and the election system to the constitutional amendment process and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The project — developed behind the scenes for months and detailed in exclusive interviews and documents obtained by The Denver Post — is perhaps the most concerted effort in recent memory to address what organizers see as inherent conflicts in how the state is governed.

Aug 22

Hickenlooper, GOP lawmakers call for hiking gas tax

Hickenlooper, GOP lawmakers call for hiking gas tax

The Colorado Statesman

GRAND JUNCTION — At a roundtable meeting with Club 20 on Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a 10- to 12-cent hike in the state gasoline tax in order to fund road and bridge repairs.

Two newly elected Western Slope legislators, both Republicans, state Reps. Yeulin Willett of Grand Junction and J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, joined the governor calling for a ballot proposal to ask Colorado voters to approve increasing the gas tax.

“Ask the people under TABOR, ‘Do you want to keep your refund or put it in the Highway Users Tax Fund?’” said Brown. “Do you know what kind of shape our roads are in? There’s no way to keep with inflation.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper talks with a Club 20 member as executive committee chairman Les Mergelman looks on at the Western Slope advocacy group’s roundtable meeting on Aug. 20 at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

Photo by Ron Bain/The Colorado Statesman

Hickenlooper pointed out there had been no increase in the state gas tax since 1992, the year the Taxpayer Bill of Rights was approved by state voters. He observed that, historically, the Western Slope has opposed increasing the gas tax but said he saw that opposition lessening.

The governor, who was asked to respond to a host of topics, including questions about transportation, the Animas River spill, the threatened shutdown of the ColoWyo Mine and the struggling North Fork Valley coal mines, natural gas production, the Colorado Water Plan, the Gunnison sage grouse, forest management, TABOR rebates and other Western Slope issues. He explained he drank a bottle of water from the Animas River in an attempt to restore Colorado’s damaged reputation as a vacation destination and to convince the Environmental Protection Association to speed up reopening the river, rather than waiting seven days.

Continue reading

Aug 14

Colorado at legal epicenter for business issues

And what about TABOR?

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to the Tenth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal the task of deciding Kerr v. Hickenlooper, a lawsuit calling into question TABOR’s constitutionality. The eventual decision is likely to reverberate throughout the nation, because it will answer a simple question: Who is in charge of the American republic?

In 1992 Coloradans voted to amend their state constitution in order to impose restraints on their government’s power to tax and spend. The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) has since given citizens the final say on new or increased taxes and spending.

Opponents of TABOR, however, believe it makes it more difficult for government to pursue costly new programs, or to increase funding for existing programs, an argument they lost in the Colorado Supreme Court.

Safe to say, this will be the biggest decision any court will rule on this year relating to a state issue.

http://coloradostatesman.com/content/996010-colorado-legal-epicenter-business-issues

Aug 12

Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

Either City Councilman Bill Murray or anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce will have to shell out $100 on Nov. 3, depending on whether Colorado Springs voters approve a sales-tax increase to fund roads fixes.

The bet was made during a protracted council meeting Tuesday, where citizens testified for hours on two resolutions, both of which won council approval on 8-1 votes.Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

Councilwoman Helen Collins opposed the resolutions, which will place two items on the November ballot:Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

– A proposal to raise the sales tax by 0.62 percent to generate $50 million a year for five years. The money would go exclusively to rebuild, pave and maintain city roads, 60 percent of which are reportedly in poor and rapidly deteriorating condition.

– A request to keep $2.1 million in revenue that exceeded the limit under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). If the money is refunded, each household would get about $11. If the city keeps it, the money will go to parks and trails, both of which were hit hard by this year’s record rainfall.

The sales tax proposal won support from many, including council members known for anti-tax attitudes.

“It’s going to fail,” Bruce told the council. “Three months from now you’ll be looking at defeat because you don’t even understand the voters.”

He challenged the nine council members to “put your money where your mouth is,” betting them $100 each that the ballot issue will fail. Only Murray took the bet.

“I don’t like tax increases,” Councilman Andres Pico said. But three-fourths of the general fund goes to public safety, he said, and he’s not willing to cut that.

Continue reading

Aug 12

Problems with NC legislation to cap taxes, reduce spending

Senate is considering Taxpayer Bill of Rights rejected by 30 other states

Bill would lock in recession-era education cuts

Only Colorado has tried TABOR, with bad results

By Rob Christensen

 

It was only a matter of time before the libertarian wing of the Republican Party rolled out its latest weapon to, in the immortal words of Grover Norquist, shrink government “to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bath tub.”

That is the pleasantly sounding Taxpayer Protection Act that is making its way through the state Senate this week. The bill would put before voters a constitutional amendment that would cap the personal income tax at 5 percent, tie spending increases in the state to population growth and inflation, and create an emergency fund that would be spent only with a two-thirds vote in the legislature.

This legislation is designed to lock in what U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis called “the conservative revolution’’ in Raleigh by tying the hands of future legislatures to improve schools, universities and roads.

This type of legislation, most often called TABOR for Taxpayers Bill of Rights, has been championed in some 30 states across the country by conservative groups. The most notable is Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.

But only one state, Colorado, has adopted a TABOR-type constitutional amendment, which it did in 1992, although it later suspended it for five years in response to a rapid decline in public services.

Senate Appropriations Committee co-chairs Brent Jackson of Sampson County and Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County issued a joint statement defending TABOR-type legislation last week.

“The real danger to our state’s finances and reputation are irresponsible politicians who tax and spend beyond our means and who rack up too much debt,” they said. “Allowing North Carolinians to vote to keep politicians from going on wild spending sprees will clearly protect our state’s financial health.”

Jackson and Rucho seem confused. They must think they live in Illinois or California. Continue reading