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.
Hickenlooper begins new state tour to sell TABOR fix
Continues push to exempt Colorado’s hospital provider fee
Posted: 07/31/2015 06:05:35 PM MDT
(Associated Press file)
LEADVILLE — On the first day of a new statewide tour, Gov. John Hickenlooper found an appropriate venue in this high mountain town for his push to revamp how the state spends money.
The Democrat stood on stage at the historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville and made a lengthy pitch for an overhaul to TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Hickenlooper wants to exempt the hospital provider fee from state revenue collections under TABOR because it pushes Colorado over the constitutional cap, prompting taxpayer refunds next year even as the state struggles to adequately fund priority areas.
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Democrats want to get rid of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
How does TABOR protect your personal and business interests?
Is there a legal difference between a “tax” and a “fee”?
What difference does it make to your bottom line?
William Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which defends constitutional liberties and the rule of law. His book, Sagebrush Rebel, Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today continues to draw rave reviews.
MSLF filed four lawsuits in defense of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). One was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court, but two remain alive, and another was filed just days ago. Two of the cases ask the Supreme Court of Colorado to rule on whether the words “tax” and “fee” have legal meanings, or can they be used interchangeably to collect revenue without the consent of voters?
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Despite a pullback in oil and gas industry jobs, Colorado’s economy is continuing to grow — enough so that state revenues this year will trigger tax refunds in 2016 for Colorado wage earners under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
The forecast estimates that about $221 million will likely be returned to taxpayers on income tax returns filed for calendar year 2015.
Roughly $83.6 million in refunds will go to people qualifying for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and another $137.3 million will be earmarked for all wage earners in the form of a sales tax credit on 2015 returns.
The Colorado Legislative Council forecast projects that the state will finish the current fiscal year on June 30 with about $18.6 million above the state’s required reserve.
“This is the most significant contribution to the economic well-being of low- and moderate-income families in Colorado in decades,” said Ali Mickelson, director of legislative and tax policy for the Colorado Fiscal Institute, a public policy think tank that focuses on issues that primarily affect low and moderate income people.
“More than 350,000 Coloradans will be helped by the state Earned Income Tax Credit. It is truly a historic day.”
The CFI estimates that the average credit under the EITC in Colorado will be about $217 per family. The maximum income to receive the credit would be $53,267 for a family of three or more children, according to the institute.
The federal tax code has had an earned income credit for decades. It’s been popular with liberals and conservatives because it rewards people who are working and claim at least some income on their returns. Continue reading
DENVER—For the third time since 2012, Colorado voters will decide a ballot question on the sales of recreational marijuana.
This year, voters will be asked to prevent a refund of the first year’s marijuana taxes that has been triggered by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in the state constitution.
VOTE in the 9NEWS Morning poll: Colorado voters will decide in November if the State will keep an estimated $58 million in marijuana revenue. Should the state, keep it or return it? Vote below or click here:
This requirement of TABOR only applies to newly-enacted taxes and also will require the state to switch the tax off one time only, resulting in a tax holiday on the special sales tax for pot this September.
Just weeks before the Colorado Legislature wrapped up its 2015 session, Gov. John Hickenlooper introduced a proposal that, in a few years, would result in the state having more money to put towards transportation and education, but reduce refunds to taxpayers. Though the proposal failed, Hickenlooper said he’ll continue to push it in coming months.The governor had proposed reclassifying a fee paid by hospitals so that it does not count against the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, limit. TABOR dictates that if the state collects more than a certain amount of tax revenue, it must return excess revenue to citizens. Hickenlooper said other fees don’t count against that limit, and the hospital fee shouldn’t either.
The proposal didn’t get any Republican support in the session that ended last Thursday, in part because lawmakers said they didn’t want to take any TABOR refund money back from taxpayers.
Hickenlooper said he took the idea public after months of working behind the scenes to build momentum for it.
“We got to the point where it didn’t seem likely that we were going to achieve a compromise, so we wanted to let the public have a debate, because there are two sides to the argument,” the governor added.
He said he still believes a compromise is possible, and said he will work on that for next year’s legislative session.
Along with the governor’s tax proposal, in his regular conversation with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner, Hickenlooper said he’s “leaning towards a veto” of two bills that could ban red light cameras and photo speeding enforcement. He also talked about his support for ending a ban on crude oil exports and reflected on Denver’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, which started under his leadership a decade ago.
House Dems pushing fee change to prevent future TABOR refunds | CPR
Democrats in Colorado’s state House are moving forward with an ambitious plan to hold onto hundreds of millions of dollars the state would otherwise have to send back to taxpayers.
Revenues are growing fast enough that the state will soon start sending out tax refunds as required by the Taxpayers Bills of Rights. But budget writers warn those refunds will make it a tough financial situation that much harder. K-12 schools and Medicaid are expected to consume most of the new money Colorado brings in over the next few years, leaving little left over for other areas, like higher education and transportation.
House Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst believes she’s found a way around that squeeze. She wants to reclassify a major fee paid by hospitals in a way that makes it exempt from TABOR limits. That change would lower the total revenue amount covered by TABOR enough keep the state from having to pay refunds for years, giving lawmakers hundreds of millions more dollars to direct to state services.
TABOR: What it does and why it’s important – Journal Advocate
Colorado lawmakers begin a mad dash to the finish next week with more than a dozen significant bills in limbo and the session’s clock set to expire.
The final flurry before the May 6 adjournment is typical each session, but this year it is complicated by a divided legislature seeking elusive common ground on a wide range of issues and a series of late bills with huge implications.
The new bills include a repeal of the sales tax on soft drinks, a new$3.5 billion transportation bonds package, two resolutions to cut the length of the legislative session, an opt-out for mail ballots, the renewal of a state consumer watchdog and a ballot measure on how to spend $58 million of marijuana taxes.
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The 2015 legislative session began with Gov. John Hickenlooper touting the state’s economic successes. It may end with him lamenting the economic problems that couldn’t be solved.
Last week, the governor sent lawmakers a letter, suggesting how they could resolve contradictory fiscal laws that limit the state’s ability to fund certain infrastructure priorities.
The problems? Not enough money for transportation projects, especially repairs to roads and bridges, with an estimated cost of $3.5 billion. And K-12 education is still almost $1 billion short of its Amendment 23-required levels. At the same time, the state is poised to start sending hundreds of millions of dollars back to residents through refunds required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
In the letter, the governor laid the blame on two laws from 2009. On the revenue side is the hospital provider fee, which the governor criticizes for pushing state revenue above TABOR limits and forcing refunds. The fee is expected to bring in $532.3 million in this fiscal year. In 2015-16, that grows to $688.5 million, according to Hickenlooper’s letter.
The fee counts as cash fund revenue under TABOR, and wasn’t anticipated when revenue caps were set in 2007-08.