Aug 15

IN RESPONSE | We don’t need a tax hike to fix Colorado’s highways

In this Jan. 7 photo, traffic backs up on Interstate 70 in Colorado, a familiar scene on the main highway connecting Denver to the mountains. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

(Re: “Only one ballot issue can tackle Colorado’s transportation challenges,” Aug. 10.)

Let’s fix our roads without a massive 21 percent increase of our state sales tax. The collaborative cronyists’ proposal, “Let’s Go Colorado” — a huge tax increase, allegedly for transportation — hurts everyday, hardworking Coloradans who are chasing their American dream.  If the politicians, bureaucrats, governmental appointees and interested parties behind the proposal, get their way, we’ll pay an additional 21 percent in state sales tax on basic items that make our lives better such as diapers, toilet paper and school supplies.

When enjoying a craft brew with colleagues, buying a good book or meeting friends for dinner, we would pay an additional 21 percent in state sales tax.  And those new school clothes, soccer balls, books and dance shoes for the kids?  You got it!  An additional 21 percent in state sales tax.  If passed, Colorado would be the 13th-highest state in the country for taxes at the register.

Politicians, bureaucrats, governmental appointees and interested parties are selling this new tax as only cents on the dollar.  Here’s the reality: Currently, Colorado state sales tax sits at 2.9 percent.  Let’s Go Colorado would increase the state sales tax to 3.52 percent, which is a significant 21 percent increase.  And it’s a regressive tax that disproportionately hurts people in the toughest situations and who trying to get ahead, such as the poor, vulnerable, elderly and our young people.

There is a better way to get Colorado going. “Fix Our Damn Roads” is a ballot initiative that directs the state legislature to dedicate a portion of Colorado’s growing revenue to fix our roads and bridges, without increasing taxes. Colorado has the money.  Our revenue continues to increase.  Colorado is expected to collect an additional $1.29 billion next fiscal year, thanks to federal tax cuts, economic growth and a resurgent oil and gas industry.  Colorado has the money.

Gas taxes were created as a user tax.  The tax was charged at the pump and the tax revenue was to be used for our roads and bridges.  However, the state has been spending our gas tax money on pet projects and other stuff.  Per an Institute of Energy Research report, 16 percent of federal gas tax money is siphoned off for non-road and bridge projects such as transit, pedestrian and bicycle paths and facilities, recreation trails, landscaping, environmental mitigation and transportation museums.  If the money would have gone to where it was promised and purposed, our roads and bridges would be in good condition and repair.

Let’s compare the two competing transportation ballot questions for this November.  Fix Our Damn Roads:  (1) Fixes our roads and bridges without a tax increase; (2) designates exactly where the money will be spent; (3) names the projects (From CDOT’S Tier One list) in the ballot measure; (4) honors the will of the people and TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights; (5) does not include carve-outs for special interests, and (6) bonds for $3.5 billion with a repayment cost, including interest, of $5.2 billion to fix our roads and bridges.

Let’s Go Colorado: (1) Proposes a massive 21 percent state sales tax increase; (2) provides a goody bag of money for politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists and interested parties to spend on pet projects; (3) lacks transparency and accountability to everyday, hardworking Coloradans, i.e. there are no specific projects named in the ballot measure; (4) includes language that money collected above the TABOR limits is not returned to the people; (5) includes an exemption for aviation and jet fuels, and (6) bonds for $6 billion with a repayment cost, including interest, of $9.4 billion.  Fix Our Damn Roads saves hardworking Coloradans at least $4.2 billion.

We all agree that our roads and bridges could use a little love.  Together, we can do this.  It’s time to Fix Our Damn Roads and let’s do it without a massive tax increase!

Kim Monson
Lone Tree

The author is a former city councilwoman for Lone Tree and co-hosts the “Americhicks — Molly Vogt & Kim Monson” radio show on KLZ 560 AM and the “WWII Project” on KEZW 1430.  

 

IN RESPONSE | We don’t need a tax hike to fix Colorado’s highways

Aug 09

Education tax measure makes the ballot

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News Release

MEDIA CONTACT: 303-860-6903

Julia Sunny

Julia.Sunny@sos.state.co.us

 

Education tax measure makes the ballot

DENVER, Aug. 9, 2018 — Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced today that a proposed constitutional amendment that boosts income taxes to raise money for education made the ballot.

Total signatures received 179,390
Total invalid signatures 49,368
Total valid signatures 130,022

Initiative 93 is the first citizen-initiated ballot measure to make the Nov. 6 general election ballot. It involves a complex formula for raising income taxes among the state’s top earners to raise money for education.

Colorado law requires that ballot-measure backers turn in 98,492 valid voter signatures — 5 percent of the total of votes cast for all candidates in the last Secretary of State general election, which was in 2014.

In addition, the voter-approved Amendment 71 in 2016 changed the requirements for proposed constitutional amendments. The education measure must pass with a 55-percent majority rather than a simple majority in November, and supporters were required to collect 2 percent of their signatures in each of the state’s 35 Senate district. The attachment shows the breakdown in each Senate district.

Six other initiatives are still under review. The Secretary of State’s office received five initiative petitions on Monday and one on Aug. 3. The results of the review must be announced by Sept. 5.

To examine the measures, go to the Initiative Filings, Agendas & Results link on the Secretary of State web page and the first set of measures marked “signature line review.” When you click on each measure, there will be a link marked “hearing result.” Click on that link and the ballot titles will say whether it is a proposed change to the Colorado Constitution or state statute.

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Aug 09

Sales tax hike for transportation a regressive, unstable funding scheme

In November, Coloradans will likely be voting on a scheme to raise the state sales tax to support state and local transportation projects.

Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission

Unfortunately, raising sales taxes would hit all the wrong people, and provide a particularly unstable revenue stream to fund this infrastructure.

It’s no secret that Colorado’s roads and bridges are a mess.  They have failed to keep pace with the state’s growth, even as maintenance has fallen behind.

You either end your weekend trip to the mountains on Sunday morning or you pack a picnic lunch for the parking lot home.  Daily commutes on I-25 come to a standstill between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock.  And driving around Denver means a permanent sinking fund for front-end alignments.

We’re in this state of affairs because the Colorado legislature has consistently failed to spend money on roads and bridges instead of other pet projects.  This year, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1 in an attempt to address the problem, but almost everyone agrees that the paltry spending past the first two years is an inadequate solution.

In response, the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Contractors Association have proposed raising the state sales tax from 2.90 percent to 3.52 percent, and authorizing up to $6 billion in bonds.  The additional revenue would be divided among state highways, local governments, and multi-modal (transit) projects. Continue reading

Aug 06

Legal battles continue over Taxpayer Bill of Rights, hospital fees, transportation taxes

egal battles continue over Taxpayer Bill of Rights, hospital fees, transportation taxes

FILE - Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado.

On Nov. 3, 1992, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment which stipulates that lawmakers seeking to raise taxes or issue debt must first ask voters for permission.

Called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, it took effect Dec. 31, 1992, and was designed to serve as another check against the growth of government. It requires that any increase in overall revenue from taxes not exceed the rates of inflation and population growth.

The TABOR Foundation, which was instrumental in advancing the amendment, maintains that it has been a successful measure.

Others maintain it interferes with advancing critical public spending initiatives. Sam Mamet, the executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, opposes TABOR. Mamet argued on the 25th anniversary of TABOR that “iIt is one of the most seriously damaging things the voters of the state have done to themselves in the last 25 years, in my humble opinion.”

Since its inception 26 years ago, many attempts have been made to amend, circumvent and litigate TABOR; the foundation counts at least 80 cases between 1993 and 2017.

Pfiffner said a perfect example of this is the 2015 lawsuit it filed, TABOR Foundation, et al. v. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, et al. regarding Colorado’s “hospital provider fee,” which it argues is an unconstitutional tax.

Continue reading

Jul 31

Colorado expected to see $1 billion in new revenue in 2019; will taxpayers get a rebate?

FILE - Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast presented to the Joint Budget Committee in June showed that the state’s general fund is projected to close out fiscal 2018 with a $1.2 billion surplus.

Since Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) places a cap on annual state tax revenue the state can keep, spend or save, many wonder whether Coloradans will actually see tax refunds in 2020.

 

Continue reading

Jul 28

High and Dry in Pasadena

High and Dry in Pasadena

California cities game fiscal emergencies to raise taxes.

Downtown Pasadena with the city hall and the San Gabriel mountains in California.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

By The Editorial Board

July 27, 2018 6:41 p.m. ET

As a rare municipality with a AAA credit rating from S&P Global, Pasadena is an oasis of financial stability in California. Yet the city declared a fiscal emergency earlier this year, and the reason is a sign of the progressive times.

In 1978 and 1996, Californians approved two amendments to the state constitution to limit municipal authority to raise taxes. Among other restrictions, Prop. 13 requires the support of two-thirds of voters to raise taxes for a specific local program or project. Under Prop. 218, new taxes can be proposed only during general elections when the city council is also up for a vote.

But there’s a loophole. “In cases of emergency declared by a unanimous vote of the governing body,” Prop. 218 says, cities can ignore the timing restrictions. And California lets local leaders determine what constitutes a fiscal emergency. Under that flexible definition, cities can propose taxes whenever they want while still following the letter of Prop. 218. Continue reading

Jul 25

Coming up next: three local tax questions

Coming up next: three local tax questions

“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never a convenient time for any of them.”

— Margaret Mitchell

We’ll soon see how far we’ve come as a community…whether the public safety tax and school bond and override successes last fall marked a welcome change in attitudes or were only a temporary aberration.

County residents will likely face in November a ballot question asking if the Mesa County can exclude state grants from revenue limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). In Grand Junction, voters will likely get two bites at the apple — one a proposal in November to double the city’s lodging tax and another next April to increase the sales tax to fund construction and operation of a community recreation center.

Two of the three, the ones soonest on our ballots, fall easily into the category of “no-brainers” while the third, the community center proposal, will likely generate heated back and forth between now and the city election in April.

It makes no sense, all three county commissioners argued in a public session last week, for Mesa County to not be able to accept state and federal grants for infrastructure and other purposes without busting the TABOR revenue cap but to instead have to turn down such things as a $5 million award for Mind Springs. Ironically, some grants not applied for come from federal severance taxes which flow back through the state and become subject to TABOR when passed on to local governments.

Continue reading

Jul 17

Bed tax law suit gets new life

Bed tax law suit gets new life

DENVER — Ongoing litigation against the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, among others, over a 2009 program that raised taxes via a “hospital provider fee,” has new energy after Cause of Action Institute announced earlier this month it would take on the representation of the plaintiffs in the case.

Cause of Action is a Washington D.C.-based 501(c)(3) organization that according to its website advocates for “economic freedom and individual opportunity advanced by honest, accountable, and limited government.”

Plaintiffs, who were originally represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, had 60 days to find new counsel after Mountain States withdrew for reasons not related to the case or the plaintiffs.

Lee Steven and James Valvo are the lead attorneys. The Colorado-licensed attorney is Michael Francisco, who while working in the Colorado Attorney General’s office helped to write the defense of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Kerr vs. Hickenlooper, which claimed TABOR was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a republican form of government. That argument lost.

This case was initially filed in 2015. It asserts the state’s Hospital Provider Fee is actually a tax enacted in violation of the TABOR. Continue reading

Jul 16

Protecting Taxpayers with Supermajority Requirements

Protecting Taxpayers with Supermajority Requirements

Cartoon workingman reluctantly paying taxes. (Photo: AdobeStock/PPD/Adiano)

CARTOON WORKINGMAN RELUCTANTLY PAYING TAXES. (PHOTO: ADOBESTOCK/PPD/ADIANO)

The best budget rule in the United States is Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Known as TABOR, this provision in the state’s constitution says revenues can’t grow faster than population plus inflation. Any revenue greater than that amount must be returned to taxpayers.

Combined with the state’s requirement for a balanced budget, this means Colorado has a de facto spending cap (similar to what exists in Switzerland and Hong Kong).

The second-best budget rule is probably a requirement that tax increases can’t be imposed without a supermajority vote by the legislature.

The underlying theory is very simple. It won’t be easy for politicians to increase the burden of government spending if they can’t also raise taxes. Particularly since states generally have some form of rule requiring a balanced budget.

Basically a version of “Starve the Beast.”

Anyhow, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, 14 states have some type of supermajority requirements.

And more states are considering this reform.

Continue reading

Jul 16

High Court decision could send internet sales taxes to Durango

High Court decision could send internet sales taxes to Durango

New revenue would help, but not solve, city’s long-term budget deficit
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on internet sales could bring the city of Durango additional sales tax revenue. But unanswered questions surround the new revenue.

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