Mar 03

EDITORIAL: Work with Hick to widen I-25

By: The Gazette editorial

March 2, 2016 Updated: March 2, 2016 at 7:00 pm

I-25 Traffic

Traffic on I-25

Fiscal conservatives, who wisely defend Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, have a renewed option to fix highways and fund education without a tax hike. A new door opened for granting enterprise status to the state’s Hospital Provider Fee when Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman issued an opinion saying the move would not violate the state constitution.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, an amendment to the constitution, requires state government to return surpluses to individuals when revenues reach a ceiling established by a complex formula that factors inflation and population growth.

Though TABOR has protected the public from excessive spending, taxation and runaway government growth, the Hospital Provider Fee creates a technical glitch and an illusion of state revenue.

Since 2009, hospitals have paid fees to the state. The cash is used to obtain matching funds from the federal government. The fees and federal funds, combined, are returned to hospitals to help fund indigent care.

Though state government does not have discretion with the money, it appears on the books and contributes to tripping TABOR refunds. Gov. John Hickenlooper wants the Legislature to establish an enterprise fund to collect the fees, which would exempt them from counting toward the refund cap.

Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, was cautiously open to considering the idea when Hickenlooper first pitched it early last year. In pursuit of pulling a bill title to create the enterprise in January, Cadman asked for a legal opinion from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Legal Services – a public firm of several dozen lawyers who craft all legislation. The attorneys handed Cadman an opinion they had written for Democrats in 2013. It said the proposed enterprise would violate TABOR, and it minced no words. Cadman quickly staged a news conference to publicize the opinion and announce he would not support the governor’s plan.

Tuesday’s development could change the outlook. The state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, a Republican, says enterprise status would not violate the law. Coffman is an unabashed defender of TABOR.

Though conflicting legal opinions cloud the issue, it seems like common sense to sequester hospital fees from TABOR calculations. It is blatant show money, which does not constitute sustained growth of government coffers. Though part of an unseemly federal smoke-and-mirrors scheme to backfill Medicaid, the funds should not trip refunds that were intended to prevent legitimate growth in state revenues.

With the proposed enterprise, state government might retain more than $700 million a year, which could do a lot for our roads.

After hearing of the attorney general’s opinion, Hickenlooper said he would sit down with Cadman and try to strike a compromise. The two men should start with a plan to ensure widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock with a portion of the retained revenue. The project would benefit southern Colorado, Denver and the state’s economy. Lock it in by issuing bonds. Republicans also should ensure some of the money benefits K-12 education. And, as Republicans hold all the remaining cards, Cadman should demand better regulations for recreational pot and tuition tax credits for kids.

Retention of refunds, with a simple accounting maneuver, could help Coloradans without raising taxes. Before they make it so, in the spirit of checks and balances, the Senate majority should commandeer control of the funds.

the gazette


Colorado attorney general OKs removing hospital fee from TABOR

Mar 02

Blake: Funding transportation needs adds fuel to the fire

Blake: Funding transportation needs adds fuel to the fire

File photo: Todd Shepherd

File photo: Todd Shepherd

If you are looking for an opportunity to pay higher taxes, this is your year.

Already on Colorado’s 2016 ballot is a single-payer health plan that would boost the state income tax rate to 14.63 percent, highest in the nation.

On its heels comes a planned initiative sponsored by the Colorado Contractors Association, which wants more money to build roads and mass transit projects.

Not by increasing the state gasoline tax, now 22 cents a gallon, but by increasing the state sales tax, now 2.9 percent, by up to three-quarters of a cent.

The final figure has yet to be determined, said Bill Ray, spokesman for the planned initiative. The organizers have until March 25 to propose their final ballot language.

They are working backwards from a goal of raising $500 million to $600 million more per year, which under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has to be listed on the ballot question. They will consider the state’s current revenue stream and then figure out how much higher the tax rate must be to raise the money.

If taxes are a must, user-pay levies are generally considered the fairest. Those who drive their cars over the roads pay their taxes at the pump. Those who don’t drive don’t have to pay.

But earlier polling by the CCA determined that an increase in the gasoline tax would be “roundly rebuffed” by voters, said Ray.

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Feb 10

The TABOR Speakers Bureau is available to explain TABOR to your organization members and answer questions

11903845_10153520059035902_2509540475343472795_nDoes your group or organization need a dynamic speaker and timely topic for your next meeting?

How about learning more on a subject that saves you money and stops the explosive growth of government spending?

You’ve heard of TABOR (The Taxpayers Bill Of Rights), haven’t you?

It’s been in the news quite a bit lately.

Why not use the TABOR Speakers Bureau for your next meeting?

We take the time to explain  “what” TABOR is along with what it does—or doesn’t do,  “how” it works, “why” it’s so important to Colorado,  “when” Coloradans get TABOR refunds, and “how” it impacts you. Continue reading

Jan 21

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Donald E.L. Johnson

Donald E.L. Johnson

Colorado conservatives who want to control spending and taxes in the state should keep a close eye on the bipartisan Building a Better Colorado.

Its mission is pretty clear to anyone who has attended one of its some 20 “summits” that have been held around the state and has read its handouts and website.

Building a Better Colorado is intent on making it easier for politicians to increase spending and raise taxes. That is, it wants to repeal TABOR), which has helped keep spending in check in Colorado since it was passed in the early 1990s.

Further, BABC wants to make it harder to amend the state constitution by requiring a “super majority” of somewhere between a 50 percent to 66 percent majority to amend the constitution. Today, it is as easy to amend the constitution as it is to pass a referendum that creates a new law or set of laws that can be changed by the General Assembly.


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Jan 18

Mayors call for ‘de-Brucing’ Colorado at DBJ State of the Cities forum

Mayors from across the Denver metro on Tuesday railed against gridlock at both the state and federal levels while discussing local and regional solutions to problems such as affordable housing and transportation, and called for the “de-Brucing” of state finances in the way many municipalities that have done already.

Five metro mayors gathered at the Denver Business Journal’s annual State of the Cities event to field questions on topics ranging from education funding to construction defects laws and the effect it’s having on construction of mid-priced condominiums

5 Mayors don't like TABOR

State of the Cities 2016: Neil Westergaard, Denver Business Journal editor-in-chief,… more


Asked about proposed state-level measures including a $3.5 billion bonding effort and moving revenue from the state’s hospital provider fee to an enterprise fund, both with the goal of boosting funding for roads, mayors said that bigger, constitutional issues need to be addressed first.

“It has to be said. Before we address bonding, we need to de-Bruce. Period. And allow, without raising taxes, for the state of Colorado to take the revenue they receive and to begin to invest in important programs like transportation, roads and education,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

De-Brucing is a reference to tax activist Douglas Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment. TABOR placed limits on the amount of tax revenue that can be collected by governments in Colorado and mandates tax rebates in some cases when revenues exceed limits tied to population growth.

The term “de-Brucing” refers to ballot measures that allow governments to opt out of the revenue limits and keep amounts raised by existing tax rates. Tax rate increases have to be approved by voters under TABOR. Continue reading