TABOR Committee members and TABOR friends,
We regret to inform you that the TABOR Foundation lost the Bridge Enterprise case.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the tax could still be designated a fee if it was likely the payer could use a bridge in the future. The only step left to us in the judicial system was for the Colorado Supreme Court to recognize the fallacy of that conclusion and overturn the Appellate Court. The Supreme Court selects the cases it will hear and yesterday declined to allow the case to proceed any further.
The TABOR Committee Board believed the case was eminently win-able. The state government’s scheme was so obviously a subterfuge to get around TABOR; the structure and premises so blatantly dishonest that we could not foresee any judge allowing it to proceed. The practical consequence of the loss is that the fiction will continue that you incur a toll when you cross a bridge and that you pay your tolls every year with your car registration tax. The “Bridge Enterprise” will continue to operate as if it were a business, but do so inside the Colorado Department of Transportation. It performs what is historically a government function, uses the Colorado Transportation Commission as its board of directors and the Department director as its executive director. It will mean that the made-up entity can continue to move government revenues off-budget and eventually place Colorado citizens in debt for about $1 billion off-budget, without prior voter approval. What a travesty.
The only possible resolution at this point is political. That is, a conservative governor and a legislature that adheres to constitutional primacy and respects the spirit of TABOR would have to take office. That rare alignment could conceivably reverse the statutes that put this rotten system into place. With Hickenlooper having just started a second term, that vision is a long time from even being considered.
After nearly half a year waiting on legal developments, we have seen three major actions in as many business days. Please look for another report from your TABOR Committee very soon.
TABOR Committee Chairman