Jul 09

Q&A with Penn Pfiffner | On standing up for freedom, and TABOR

Q&A with Penn Pfiffner | On standing up for freedom, and TABOR

·         Dan Njegomir, Colorado Politics

The TABOR Foundation’s Penn Pfiffner addresses the Reagan Club of Colorado earlier this year. (Photo courtesy the TABOR Foundation)

 

Even if you don’t move in Penn Pfiffner’s center-right political circles, you’re probably familiar with his name as the media’s go-to guy for comment on the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights whenever it comes up in the news. And it comes up a lot, of course. 

The groundbreaking taxing and spending limits — venerated by some and vilified by others — have been stirring debate ever since being enacted into Colorado’s Constitution by voters in 1992. Better known by its acronym TABOR, the constitutional provision has prompted lawsuits, legislation and more ballot issues by wide-ranging interests hoping to elude or at least ease its restraints on state and local budgets. 

The perennial back-and-forth over TABOR also spawned the TABOR Foundation, which, along with its advocacy counterpart the TABOR Committee, emerged with the help of Pfiffner and other resolute TABOR supporters to stand up for the policy.

Pfiffner, who served as a Republican state representative from Lakewood in the 1990s, has become as distinctive a voice for TABOR over the years as he has for the advocacy of limited government in general.

He expounds on both of those endeavors and more — as always, in his characteristically eloquent and respectful way — in today’s Q&A.

Colorado Politics: Let’s start with a recent headline. The state Supreme Court ruled June 17 that a pending ballot proposal to repeal TABOR in its entirety may proceed — despite a constitutional “single-subject” stipulation on ballot issues that was long believed to have blocked precisely such an all-in-one-shot repeal.

In a public statement from the TABOR Foundation condemning the ruling, you said, “The court has become dangerously unmoored from the clear meaning of the state constitution.” The statement also said the court ”appears to take sides.”

Recap for us what was fundamentally at issue in the case before court — and why you feel the court missed the mark.

Penn Pfiffner: The recent direction of the Colorado courts on constitutional matters should trouble any citizen. Our American system relies on an honest judicial branch to impartially interpret the law. We have seen an absolutely consistent antipathy from the courts towards the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

It’s an understatement to say that the justices from trial level to the Colorado Supreme Court have appeared to argue backwards from predetermined outcomes. Some of the arguments appeared to me to be even juvenile, like an adolescent trying too hard to argue the impossible.

The central finding in the Bridge Enterprise case that the TABOR Foundation brought is an example. Years from now, I surmise historians of Colorado’s system will be amazed and disgusted that it became so partisan during these recent years. Good, experienced attorneys today are urging the TABOR Foundation not to bring any more constitutional issues to the judicial branch — it’s that futile, and all that we end up with is setting bad precedent. In the case you raise, the court explicitly threw out a generation of precedent. It’s as if they never opened the section on TABOR to read all the different pieces in this comprehensive constitutional measure.

A dissent from the bench pointed out that some activist could now substitute Colorado’s extensive “Bill of Rights” for “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” (in a ballot proposal) and in one vote overturn all citizen protections. A leftist court looks ready to use its personal political views to put a thumb on the scales of justice.


Penn Pfiffner

  • Chairs the board of directors for the TABOR Foundation and the TABOR Committee, since 2009. The two entities, respectively, educate and advocate on behalf of TABOR.
  • Owner, Construction Economics LLC, since 1983; provides financial and managerial consulting to architects, engineers and contractors.
  • Senior fellow in fiscal policy at the Denver-based Independence Institute, 2001-2014.
  • Served as a Republican state representative from Jefferson County in the Colorado House, 1993-2001.
  • Current board member and past president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers.
  • Chaired “Too Taxing for Colorado,” an issue committee to defeat the unsuccessful Proposition 103 tax increase on the 2011 statewide ballot.
  • Holds a master’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado Denver and bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science from CU Boulder.

 

CP: Give us your elevator speech on TABOR’s role, and value, in our state constitution.

To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

 

Mar 12

Join the TABOR Defense Team

Are you sick and tired on certain politicians trying to weasel their way out of, or ignoring, TABOR?
Someone needs to do something about it, isn’t that right?
Why not you?
Yes, you read that right.
If not you, then who?
Why not?  It’s a great time to get involved
We could use your help, talents, and skills defending the gold standard called Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Come join us to keep Colorado, Colorado.
It’s easy.
We’re looking forward to having you help Colorado.
See below on how you can make a difference.

Both the TABOR Foundation and TABOR Committee have received huge numbers of requests for assistance and participation.

Your Colorado TABOR team is overwhelmed and needs your help!

Would you be willing to assist us with any of the following?

You can make a big difference by volunteering your skills and activism.

Contact us and let’s talk.
Either email TheTABORFoundation@gmail.com or call Penn at his office (303-233-7731).

Thank you for any help you can provide!

Your TABOR Foundation and TABOR Committee team

TABOR needs your help!

Featured

Both The TABOR Foundation and TABOR Committee have received huge numbers of requests for assistance and participation.
Your Colorado TABOR team is overwhelmed!
We need your help!
Would you be willing to assist us?

You can make a big difference by volunteering your skills and activism.
Contact us and let’s talk.
Either email TheTABORFoundation@gmail.com or call Penn at his office (303-233-7731).

Thank you for any help you can provide!

Your TABOR Foundation and TABOR Committee team

 

 

 

Read below to see if you can provide any help!

  •  Podcasts

Be a media producer!  The TABOR Foundation’s mission includes outreach to people who have not heard about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and to supporters who want more intellectual ammunition to talk about TABOR.  At one point, we had the facility, the interview talent and eight guests scheduled.  A technical barrier to posting our podcasts then took some time to overcome.  We would like to proceed, but now, for want of leadership and management, we have been unable to move forward.  Please help us solve that problem and continue the program.

Requirements:  We seek a volunteer who in 2019 will donate about 40 hours between now and early November.  The time demands most likely would be in “spurts,” that is, six different projects in which about six hours of your time would be needed over the course of about three weeks, with breaks in between during which little or no time would be asked.  The individual we seek has to be well organized and able to gently but persistently move other volunteers to act.  You would get to know the people who supply both the taping equipment and the interview skills.  For each podcast, you would coordinate the schedule to bring together the person to be interviewed, the taping technician and the interviewer.  You would obtain in advance from the Foundation the questions that should guide the interview.  You would attend the interview and address any problems.  You would work with others or on your own to edit the podcasts for content and flow, with the help of the taping technician.  You would coordinate with the web master to post the completed podcast.  You would solicit other advocacy groups to link to the podcast and notify other media of its availability.  Throughout the year you would report to, and keep apprised, the Foundation’s Executive Director.

  • Speakers Bureau – Communications

The TABOR Foundation needs to replace an activist who has excellent skills in defining the TABOR outreach message but must relinquish that role.  She also has been organizing the resources necessary for successful presentations.

Requirements:  A volunteer who in 2019 will donate an average of one to two hours a week to manage the Speakers Bureau and continue to weigh political developments and reactions to keep the speakers group prepared.  There is also a need to organize one-time training sessions to improve the preparation of speakers.  One training session would be for TABOR content, delivered by an experienced TABOR speaker.  A second session would be to hone the speakers’ presentation skills, to be led by a professional trainer.  Time would also have to be given to ensure consistent promotion is ongoing.

  • Speakers Bureau – Outreach

There are more speakers ready to make more TABOR 101 presentations than we have venues to deliver the message.  One person has been active in soliciting invitations, but needs assistance.  The TABOR Foundation needs another person to call political clubs and civic clubs along the Front Range, and perhaps eventually to expand into other areas of the state.  The objective would be to generate four invitations per month, which then would have to match the invitation with an available speaker and communicate the key logistical information and coordinate use of the PowerPoint equipment.  The individual doing this work needs to be a self-starter with a commitment to keep after the goals, in what often proves to be a frustrating and drawn-out effort to identify program directors, ensure that duplicative calls are not going out in conflict with the other caller, and the need to recruit the best person to speak from our portfolio of volunteers.

  • Monitor Family Leave Bill

Rumor has the TABOR Committee expecting that a new 1% payroll tax will be called something else by the legislature, so no voter approval will be allowed.  Learn how to track the introduction of new bills throughout the session (or exercise your knowledge if already familiar).  Once introduced, notify the Committee and keep us apprised of the progress of the legislation – when people can testify, revisions to the fiscal note, and so on.  Very likely there will be additional collaboration / coordination with other groups concerned about the bill.  A wild guess is that tracking will take 15 minutes a day until the bill dies, is passed, or session ends in May.  Additional communication may take one or two dozen hours.  A related task would be to generate guest columns in several major newspapers, a task that could double the time you contribute.