Aug 11

Mark Hillman: State Democrats ignore voters’ voices

Mark Hillman: State Democrats ignore voters’ voices

By MARK HILLMAN |

August 11, 2021 at 7:30 a.m.

Gov. Jared Polis and Progressive Democrat majorities at the Ssate Capitol have spent the past three years ignoring clearly-expressed voices of Colorado voters on tax and economic issues. In fact, Progressive Democrats’ disregard for many of the same voters who elected them has become so brazen that they seem to be daring voters to hold them accountable.

With commanding majorities of 41-24 in the House of Representatives and 20-15 in the state Senate, it’s understandable that Democrats are developing a sense of invincibility.

However, it remains to be seen if the Democrats’ recent surge — in 2017, they held a 34-31 margin in the House, while Republicans had an 18-17 majority in the Senate — is due to their own popularity or because Donald Trump irritated many Colorado voters.

In 2018, Colorado voters rejected (59%-40%) a tax increase to raise $700 million a year for highways and transportation. In that same election, voters said “no” (55%-45%) to draconian restrictions on oil and gas development across the state. Polis, campaigning for governor, claimed to oppose those severe oil-and-gas restrictions.

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Aug 11

Public invited to comment on TABOR ballot proposal

 

Helen Robinson

El Paso County residents are invited to attend and participate in two meetings during the month of August in which the Board of El Paso County Commissioners will discuss a possible November ballot question to fund road infrastructure projects and deferred parks maintenance. The meetings will be held during the board’s regularly scheduled Tuesday meetings on Aug. 17 and 24.

Commissioners will refund $7.1 million in excess 2020 revenues to taxpayers regardless of how the question under review moves forward, according to a county-issued news release.

“The 2020 refund is important to ensure full community recovery from COVID-19,” the release said. “Without raising taxes, the proposed ballot question would enable the county to address around $15 million of backlogged road and parks projects by allowing the county to retain funds collected in 2021 above the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) cap. The proposal would restrict the $15 million of the revenue for specific road infrastructure and parks projects, reset the cap to reflect 2021 revenue.”

“We want to hear from our citizens as we weigh the possibility of adding a TABOR question to the November ballot,” Stan VanderWerf, chairman of the board of county commissioners, said in the release. “Our Department of Public Works estimates we have hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance road needs in our county. This is one option to address the problem, but our citizens are smart and informed. We need to hear from them to see what ideas they have.”

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Aug 11

Submitting FOR or AGAINST statements in your local TABOR ballot issue notice

 Submitting FOR or AGAINST statements in your local TABOR ballot issue notice

One great though lesser-known benefit provided in the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is the local ballot issue notice. This guide is sent by mail at least 30-days before the election to all households with one or more registered voters.

The TABOR ballot issue notice includes content and details about upcoming ballot issues which increase taxes, add debt, or suspend government revenue limits. It includes a section where registered electors have the opportunity to submit FOR or AGAINST comments, up to 500 words each.

You should know that there are two types of TABOR ballot issue notices. One notice is for the statewide elections and commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.” The other notice is for elections held by local governments such as a town, school district, or special district. You could potentially get more than one of these in the mail.

Several years back, Dennis Polhill challenged the Colorado Union of Taxpayers by pointing out that of some 300 tax issues statewide during a ballot year, only 15 had the taxpayer’s voice printed in a ballot issue notice.  That’s only 5 percent!  You can make a big difference and amplify your voice by being an author of the next ballot issue notice submittal.  May we count on you please to participate?    Considering that you reach thousands of voters, being able to submit comments in the TABOR notice costs almost nothing and takes relatively little time & energy.

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Jul 04

Colorado Ranked No. 20 for its Fiscal Health

A new accounting report shows that Colorado did not go into the coronavirus pandemic in good fiscal shape, and it likely came out of the crisis even worse.

Truth in Accounting is an organization that was founded in 2002 by CPAs to “compel governments to produce financial reports that are understandable, reliable, transparent, and correct.” It is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization headquartered in Chicago. One of their reports, The Morning Call recently published a financial analysis of all 50 states. Their analysis included the following key facts regarding Colorado’s financial health.

Colorado is ranked 20 th of all 50 states for financial health.

Colorado owes more than it owns.

Colorado’s taxpayer burden is -$2,600, and it received a  “C” from TIA for financial management.

The taxpayer burden measurement incorporates both assets and liabilities, not just pension debt.

Colorado is a “sinkhole” state without enough assets to cover its debt.

Colorado only has $14.9 billion of assets available to pay bills totaling $20.3 billion.

Because Colorado doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills, it has a $5.4 billion  financial hole. To fill it, each Colorado taxpayer would have to send $2,600 to the state.

The state’s financial report was released 205 days after its fiscal year-end, which is considered untimely according to the  180 day standard.

Colorado legislators have been attempting to circumnavigate taxpayer restraints established by TABOR, The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters in 1992.

#ItsYourMoneyNotTheirs
#ThankGodForTABOR
#VoteOnTaxesAndFees
#TABOR
#FollowTheMoney
#FollowTheLaw

The full report can be found here:

https://www.data-z.org/state_data_and_comparisons/detail/colorado

 

 

Jun 19

Colorado’s economy has recovered so quickly that the legislature will have to refund taxpayers under TABOR

While state coffers have recovered and employment is increasing, low-income, Black and Hispanic workers still lag in job recovery

Jesse Paul and Thy Vo

11:12 AM MDT on Jun 18, 2021

The Colorado Capitol is seen on Monday, June 7, 2021, during the final days of the 2021 legislative session. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

 

Colorado taxpayers will be refunded as much as $2.8 billion in tax revenue collected over the three fiscal years because the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis has been so swift and strong and because of growth limits under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

That’s according to two tax-revenue forecasts — one from nonpartisan legislative staffers and another from Gov. Jared Polis’ office —  presented to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Friday.

The state’s TABOR cap is calculated through population growth and inflation. When the cap is exceeded, the legislature is required to refund the excess, most often through a future tax break, such as an income tax reduction. Lawmakers can seek voter approval to retain the revenue as well, but that appears unlikely to happen in the near future.

Nonpartisan fiscal analysts and the governor’s office forecast that the cap will be exceeded in the current fiscal year, the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins in July, and the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins in July 2022.

“The past quarter’s growth has been truly remarkable and unexpected,” Lauren Larson, director of the Governor’s Office of State Budgeting and Planning, told the JBC.

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Jun 17

The Past Present and Future of TABOR featuring Michael Fields and Dustin Zvonek

On this edition of Common Sense Digest, we take a deep dive into a major law unique to Colorado, and why it is relevant today, nearly three decades after being voted in by Coloradans in 1992. That’s right, we’re discussing the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, commonly referred to as TABOR.

In recent years, we have seen direct attempts through our state’s ballot process to strike TABOR entirely. At present, TABOR is being challenged from multiple angles and our Host and Chairman Earl Wright welcomes two guests to discuss why TABOR matters, what makes it unique, and what challenges lie ahead for it.

Joining Earl is, first, Michael Fields, Executive Director of Colorado Rising Action, a 501(c)(4) that fights “for limited government, lowering taxes, fighting government over-regulation that stifles freedom, affordable and accessible health care, free enterprise, and a strong national security.” Also joining is Dustin Zvonek, current candidate for Aurora City Council, a small business owner, former congressional and legislative aide, current member of the Aurora Citizens Advisory Budget Committee, and alumnus of Common Sense Institute.

Thank you for listening to Common Sense Digest.

Jun 03

Lawmakers looking at end run around ballot question on property tax cut

A bill proposed in the waning days of the General Assembly would rewrite how property taxes are classified, but more directly could work around a question about lowering property taxes on the November ballot.

Colorado Politics obtained a draft of the bill to be introduced late Wednesday by Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, and Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, to turn the two property tax classifications, commercial and residential, into five or perhaps six divisions.

In the House, the bill’s prime sponsor is Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo.

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Jun 03

Interrogatory On House Bill 21-1164 TABOR Public School Finance Act

On May 24, 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court continued its crusade against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. It allowed the General Assembly, yet again, to maneuver around TABOR’s constitutional restrictions and effectively raise taxes without getting the required voter approval. The procedure used by the General Assembly was the unusual one of submitting Interrogatories to the Supreme Court, which ask whether their proposed scheme is allowed, prior to passing the law.

At issue were the mill levy rates in 174 separate school districts. The voters in all of these districts had, with varying language and circumstances, voted to exempt their districts from the necessity of returning excess revenues to their taxpayers.  The districts were then impacted by the Colorado Department of Education’s determination that, in order to prevent revenues from increasing, they had to lower their mill levies as property values increased, and therefore, property tax revenues increased.

The legislature proposed, and now has passed, a complex plan to eliminate tax credits, which it created just last year, gradually over the course of the next 19 years. Of course, the State imposition of higher mill levies and its elimination of tax credits will raise taxes. Given the increase in Colorado property values, the increases will be significant.

The TABOR Foundation, filed a friend of the court (“amicus”) brief, written by attorney Rebecca Sopkin.  The TABOR Foundation’s participation gave you a voice in this matter.  The filing protested this clear evasion of the requirement that voters approve any increases in their taxes.

Justice Brian Boatwright, in a well written dissent, pointed out that taxpayers “will see an increase in their mill levy rates as a result of” the proposed legislation, HB1164. He then noted that “[t]he voters today did not approve of this, and neither did the voters in the late 1990s.”  The court majority, however, disregarded the obvious impact of this legislation and gave its tax increases the green light.

Colorad Supreme Cout Opinion by The Forum on Scribd

May 21

Colorado Democrats want to use one of TABOR’s most effective tax-halting mechanisms for themselves

House Bill 1321 comes as progressives have all but given up on doing away with TABOR, the 1992 constitutional amendment that has served as a third rail in Colorado politics ever since its passage

One of the most effective parts of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights when it comes to stopping tax-raising ballot questions in Colorado is a requirement that voters be informed, IN CAPITAL LETTERS, about the eye-popping sum they are deciding whether to allow the government to collect.

“SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $766,700,000 ANNUALLY FOR A TWENTY-YEAR PERIOD?” Proposition 110, which was focused on raising money for transportation projects, scream-asked voters in 2018. (It failed.)

Now, Democrats are trying to adapt that potent TABOR transparency tool for their own purposes.

House Bill 1321, a measure introduced at the Capitol this week, would require voters to be informed of which programs would be affected by ballot questions decreasing taxes.

The legislation would require the following language be attached to tax-reducing ballot measures: “Shall funding available for state services that include, but are not limited to, (the three largest areas of program expenditures) be impacted by a reduction of (projected dollar figure of revenue reduction to the state in the first full fiscal year that the measure reduces revenue) in tax revenue…?”

The bill would also mandate that ballots containing tax questions highlight how many people in which tax brackets would be most affected by tax hikes or decreases, and require that ballot titles for tax increases state that the aim is to “increase or improve levels of public services” and then list those services.

“It’s an attempt to provide more information and level the playing field,” said Carol Hedges, who leads the liberal-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute, which supports the measure. “Currently, the all-caps language focuses people’s attention only on the size of state government. We know that the size of state government is not the only factor people should be considering.”

Scott Wasserman, who leads the Bell Policy Center, a liberal advocacy organization, called the measure “a great idea” that seeks to offset what he sees as the manipulative aspects of TABOR.

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May 15

Colorado lawmakers introduce bills to overhaul state tax code

PROMO Government - Taxes Money Calculator Word Blocks - iStock - LIgorko
Published Friday, May 14, 2021
by Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) — Colorado lawmakers introduced a pair of bills this week that seek to overhaul the state’s tax code.

House Bill 21-1311 would revise corporate tax reporting standards, limit itemized deductions, and restrict contributions to tax-savings accounts to subsidize increases to the earned income tax credit and the state’s child tax credit.

House Bill 21-1312 would update several provisions of the state’s property tax code and also initiate a phasing-out of tax credits and exemptions for the coal industry.

Both bills are sponsored by a Democrat coalition of Sens. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Reps. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, and Mike Weissman, D-Aurora.

Supporters of the bills say they do three important things: increase tax fairness, close loopholes for the wealthy, and modernize the tax code.

Scott Wasserman, president of the Bell Policy Center (BPC), a left-leaning think tank, described the bills as “important” for the structural integrity of the state budget going forward.

“Politicians always talk about cleaning up the tax code, but this is one of the first attempts to really do it,” he said. “We have a structural budgetary deficit in this state. When is it going to be the right time to address it?”

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