Jun 07

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Opinion: Newcomers need to know benefits of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Jennifer Schubert-Akin and Amy Oliver Cooke
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The latest Census Bureau data released earlier this year shows that Colorado’s population has grown by nearly two-thirds since 1992, one of the fastest increases in the country. 

If you are part of the more than two million new residents who have arrived over this time, there are a few things you should know: Avoid I-70 on Sundays. We are Coloradans, not Coloradoans. And the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is responsible for much of the state’s economic success, which likely drew you here in the first place.

Between 1992 and 2016, median household income in Colorado grew by 30 percent, adjusted for inflation. This growth was more than double the national rate over the same period. Only Minnesota and North Dakota grew by more than 30 percent over this timeframe. Colorado gained $20 billion in adjusted gross income over these years — again, one of the biggest increases in the nation. 

While many other states have struggled with stagnant incomes over this period, what’s set Colorado apart? Its Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, passed in 1992, which requires state and local governments to ask voters for permission before raising taxes or debt. 

TABOR helped end years of economic stagnation and laid the groundwork for the state’s future success by keeping resources in the hands of Colorado residents who could put them to their highest valued use and checking overzealous government spending. 

TABOR has protected pocketbooks and state solvency from legislators who believe they know how to spend your money better than you. Its requirement that excess revenues must be refunded to taxpayers has also resulted in more than $2 billion being returned to the private economy to be spent at local businesses or saved for retirement.  

 

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Jun 07

Judge rules drainage district’s stormwater “fee” is actually a “TAX”

Judge rules drainage district’s stormwater fee is actually a tax

A Mesa County judge ruled today that two year’s worth of money collected by the Grand Valley Drainage District to deal specifically with stormwater should be classified as a tax, and as such was improperly collected because the district did not get voter approval for the extra charge.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County, who brought the lawsuit challenging the extra stormwater charges, celebrated the ruling by Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza.

“This is a victory for every property owner within the Grand Valley Drainage District boundaries, including many of our business members,” chamber President and CEO Diane Schwenke is quoted as saying.

“It upholds the principles of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and requires the District to convince voters that additional funding is needed, as TABOR clearly intended.”

The chamber and the county sued the drainage district after customers began receiving bills in 2016 specifically to address projects related to stormwater. Homeowners for the past two years have been charged an extra $36 a year, while many businesses saw new annual charges of up to $10,000.

The chamber and county argued the additional charge was a tax, and as such required voter approval under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment.

Read the full story in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Sentinel.

https://www.gjsentinel.com/breaking/judge-rules-drainage-district-s-stormwater-fee-is-actually-a/article_57fd4c46-68ed-11e8-86d9-a35f681c4db8.html

Jun 07

Colorado Supreme Court Issues 2nd Anti-TABOR Decision in Less than a Month—Showing Why We Need Reform!

Colorado Supreme Court Issues 2nd Anti-TABOR Decision in Less than a Month—Showing Why We Need Reform!

The Colorado Supreme Court has continued its demolition campaign against the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) with a new decision further restricting the people’s right to vote on tax increases. This latest decision comes less than a month after the court held the people have no right to vote on a law that re-adjusted sales tax exemptions in a manner that increased revenue.

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Jun 07

GAS TAX REPEAL THREATS DRIVE JERRY BROWN TO THE AID OF VULNERABLE DEMOCRATS

Without TABOR, politicians can impose more taxes on Colorado without a vote of the people….

Gas tax repeal threats drive Jerry Brown to the aid of vulnerable Democrats

May 30, 2018 05:45 AM

Updated May 30, 2018 10:26 AM

Jun 04

Grand Lake rescinds municipal fee

Good news from Grand Lake!

I am pleased to announce that the Town of Grand Lake has rescinded the outrageous municipal fee this last Tuesday, May 29th by a vote of 6-1.  The action followed two unsuccessful attempts to rescind the municipal fee on January 8th and February 12th 2018

This could have not been possible, if it were not for the election of four new trustees at the April 2nd election.  All four new trustees voted to rescind the municipal fee along with the Mayor and myself.

A little background:  The municipal fee was adopted to cover approximately 50% ($80k annually) of the cost to cover police service including dispatch and street lighting.  Traditionally, these expenses were always covered by the normal taxes and fees collected in the general fund.

The Municipal fee became a “Hot Topic” during the election process and the candidate forum we had at the end of March.  The electorate was offended that they were not asked to vote for the municipal fee, but rather the money was stolen out of their pocketbooks just as a common thief would do.   Continue reading

May 23

Supreme Court upholds Aspen’s grocery bag fee

Supreme Court upholds Aspen’s grocery bag fee

Plastic Bags

Aspen City Council banned plastic grocery bags, shown here in a market in Snowmass Village, in 2011, while implementing a 20-cent fee on paper bags. The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday found that the fee was not a tax.  

The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision announced Monday, upheld Aspen’s fee on paper grocery bags, finding that the 20-cent charge is not a tax because it offsets the costs of a municipal waste-reduction program.

The state high court upheld a district court decision from 2014 and a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from 2015. The Colorado Union of Taxpayers, a Lakewood-based group that advocates for conservative tax policy, brought the lawsuit following the program’s implementation in 2012, arguing that the fee is actually a tax. Since new taxes must be approved by voters under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment, the group argued that the fee, which was not put up for voter approval, was unconstitutional.

Aspen City Council in 2011 passed the so-called waste-reduction ordinance, which banned single-use plastic bags offered upon checkout at local grocery stores and required the 20-cent fee for paper bags. The program’s goal is to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags while ridding the community of the ubiquitous plastic bags that create an environmental hazard when not disposed of properly and otherwise contribute to the waste steam.

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May 22

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

DENVER — Whether you’ve lived in Colorado for a short time, or your entire life, you’ve probably heard about what’s known as TABOR: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Promoted by Republican lawmaker Douglas Bruce, voters in Colorado passed it back in 1992.  Under the TABOR amendment, taxes can’t be raised without voter approval. That includes the state sales tax and property taxes.

“It ensures that government cannot grow beyond what the people want it to do,” said Michael Fields of the conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity.

Fields argues TABOR leads to smart spending with an existing budget, prevents government from getting out of control and gives people of Colorado the power to decide when it’s appropriate to raise taxes.

“I think you make the case to the people,” Fields said. “If you want to invest in something more, then go make the case to the people – convince them that they need more revenue and that’ll pass.”

But there’s another side to TABOR.

“It’s not something good to have on our books. It’s actually hindered our ability as a state to do many things,” said TABOR opponent Amie Baca-Oehlert, of the Colorado Education Association.

She says she feels TABOR is a roadblock for lawmakers that prevents them from making responsible spending decisions in places where it is needed most, like Colorado’s schools.

“That just doesn’t seem right in a state with such a fast-growing economy,” she said.

But Colorado needs money to fix our ailing roads and bridges. So a push is underway to convince voters to approve a sales tax hike this November.  Educators are also pushing a tax increase to help public schools after a 2013 $1 billion proposed tax increase to pay for school funding was rejected by voters.

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an Aspen grocery bag surcharge was not a tax and thus did not fall under TABOR – the second successful challenge in recent months.

But what’s next? For the moment TABOR is here to stay. In order for it to be reversed completely – we as Coloradans would have vote to change it.

May 12

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Colorado Supreme Courtroom in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center

Nagel Photography | Shutterstock.com

Over the last 25 years, the Colorado courts have consistently legislated from the bench to weaken the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), two prominent advocacy groups committed to limited government assert. A recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling is one among many that “weakened taxpayer’s rights,” they argue.

Voters approved TABOR on Nov. 3, 1992, which then became part of the state constitution after the governor issued a proclamation on Jan. 14, 1993.

TABOR requires voter approval of most tax and debt increases. It also requires each government to reserve a percentage of non-debt-service spending (an amount that has fluctuated) for emergency reserves. It states that TABOR “shall reasonably restrain most of the growth of government. All provisions are self-executing and severable and supersede conflicting state constitutional, state statutory, charter, or other state or local provisions.” Continue reading

May 01

When a Tax Increase Isn’t a New Tax

When a Tax Increase Isn’t a New Tax

High court rules incidental, minimal tax revenue increase doesn’t violate TABOR

Pernell v. People
What might have been a precedent-setting decision in Colorado criminal case law instead became a ruling on harmless error, as the Colorado Supreme Court determined.

According to the Colorado Supreme Court, legislation that causes an incidental and de minimis increase in tax revenue does not amount to a “new tax” or “tax policy change” under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and consequently doesn’t require voter approval.

The decision issued April 23 in TABOR Foundation v. Regional Transportation District settles a 2013 lawsuit against RTD, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and Colorado Department of Revenue that claimed House Bill 13-1272 violated TABOR because it resulted in a revenue increase without voter consent. The legislature passed the bill to realign sales taxes levied by RTD and SCFD with the state sales tax. Although the districts and state share a taxable base tangible personal property — the taxes levied had diverged over the years due to various differing exemptions.

House Bill 1272 removed exemptions from the districts’ taxes on sales of cigarettes, direct-mail advertising materials, candy, soft drinks, and nonessential food containers. Its passage resulted in a projected tax revenue increase of 0.6 percent for the districts, which amounted to less than 1 percent of SCFD’s budget and one thousandth of RTD’s budget. The TABOR Foundation sued the districts, claiming the removal of exemptions constituted a “new tax” or “tax policy change” because they resulted in the districts taxing things they had not before.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, and upheld the districts’ analysis of House Bill 1272’s purpose to simplify tax collections and ease administrative confusions associated with the exemption divergences. The court concluded the revenue increase was incidental and de minimis, so it did not violate TABOR.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the April 30, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.