Nov 11

Under the Dome: Tough budget work about to begin

bob rankin

Rep. Bob Rankin

After a week of great fall weather, it was snowing hard at my house the last two mornings. Summer was way too short. Joyce and I go back to Denver this week and start activity that will be nonstop through next May. But we’re not complaining. It’s an honor to represent Northwest Colorado in the Legislature, and we look forward to what’s coming.

The six-person Joint Budget Committee (JBC), of which I’m a member, starts hearings Thursday. We’ll be grinding through the performance measures, organization and budgets of 22 state government departments. Our wonderful nonpartisan staff members spend all year analyzing every aspect of all the departments in detail and then, in their first presentation, shovels it to us in a few hours. They seem to have a sincere belief that we can absorb so much information and data. The committee asks a lot of questions, and the department comes back another day and answers our questions. We put together a balanced budget by March and present it to both houses of the Legislature.

The JBC starts with a budget recommendation from the governor that is synthesized from department inputs and revenue forecasts. This year looks to be problematic, and I expect a tumultuous process to get to our March budget. To start with, the forecasts (they will change twice before March) indicate a $160 million shortfall for the current fiscal year that ends in July. The recommendation is that we take this sum from our 6.5 percent reserve and replace the reserve next year. Continue reading

Oct 12

The attacks on TABOR continue

October 11, 2015

By Amy K. Frantz , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Do Legislators have a Constitutional right to impose taxes on citizens and to deny citizens any veto power over those actions? A group of politicians in Colorado seems to think so, and are continuing their quest to overturn the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, from the Colorado State Constitution.

In Colorado, citizens are permitted to place measures on the ballot by initiative petition, and in 1992 the TABOR Constitutional Amendment was adopted by Colorado voters. TABOR requires majority voter approval to increase tax rates, to take on new debt, or to increase spending more than the rate of inflation plus state population growth.

In the original provisions of TABOR, any revenue collected in excess of the spending limit, plus an emergency relief fund of 3 percent of fiscal year spending, had to be returned to the taxpayers in the form of rebates. However, in 2005 Colorado voters approved a measure to forego the rebates for five years, following a scare campaign conducted by the state’s big spenders.

Continue reading

Oct 11

YES: It’s what voters wanted

Employee Nikki Desiderio explains different marijuana products to customers at the Helping Hand recreational marijuana store in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso,Employee Nikki Desiderio explains different marijuana products to customers at the Helping Hand recreational marijuana store in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Opinion

YES: It’s what voters wanted

Proposition BB, the only statewide issue in Colorado’s elections this November, asks voters to “allow the state to retain and spend $66.1 million, which has already been collected, rather than refund it to taxpayers.”

Supporters of limited and cost-effective government understand the importance of reminding politicians and bureaucrats whose money they’re spending. Refunds of tax revenue are perhaps the single most-effective way of doing so. However, Proposition BB relates specifically to the refund of excise and sales taxes on marijuana, taxes approved by Colorado voters in 2013 through Proposition AA as required by the 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado.

If BB were to fail, the functional impact would be for the state not to have collected any of the voter-approved 15 percent state excise tax or 10 percent state sales tax on retail (non-medical) marijuana sales.

Two key points, as explained by the Legislative Council staff:

To continue reading this story, click this link: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_28945795/yes-its-what-voters-wanted

 

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 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

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 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