Re: “Colorado must draw a line between ‘tax’ and ‘fee,’ ” Jan. 6.
As TABOR’s author, I fought many traps our foes set for us. We went down their rabbit trail of theoretical debates … twice.
The 1988 TABOR covered “fees” that yearly increase above inflation. Foes used examples like library card fees increasing 10%, which may be a quarter. “We can’t vote all the time” on trivial sums.
The 1990 fight allowed increases rounded up to the next dollar. Same result. We can’t set a limit — say, $50 million — on a fee increase; they will simply increase 50 fees $40 million each. They will also increase licenses, permits, etc.
In 1992, we switched “fee v. tax ” details for revenue spending limits. The Establishment took OUR bait. The issue was our right to vote at all, and we won. Set the agenda and frame the issue, and you win the debate.
Our foes then violated TABOR for 28 years, by saying road and bridge “fees” are for “enterprises,” though they clearly violate the definition. Ditto hospital provider fees, the Dirty Dozen in 2009, and dozens more.
By Nathaniel Minor January 6, 2020
Hart Van Denburg/CPR NewsInterstate 70 Traffic in Mt. Vernon Canyon Friday Aug. 9, 2019
Lawmakers appear to have bipartisan agreement at the state Capitol that Colorado’s transportation system needs a serious infusion of money.
But with the 2020 session poised to kick off later this week, both sides are still far apart about where that should come from: new revenue, or reprioritizing the existing budget.
“I can absolutely tell you, 100 percent, we will not be able to meet our transportation needs without new funding sources,” House Speaker K.C. Becker said Monday at a legislative preview breakfast sponsored by Commuting Solutions, a Louisville, Colorado-based group that advocates for multi-modal transportation.
The group supported the last few attempts to raise new revenue — including 2018’s sales tax-raising Proposition 110 and 2019’s Proposition CC, which would have redirected taxpayer refunds to roads and schools. Voters rejected both of them.
Ever since TABOR (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) was enacted in 1992, our courts and legislature have been ignoring the large animal in the room. Namely, the difference between a “tax” and a “fee.” Some things seem logical. Such as a “drivers’ license fee” versus a “property tax.” This seems logical until someone wants to call the property tax a “homeowner’s fee.” Should that occur, the cost of owning a home could skyrocket completely against the intent of the TABOR law.
Best And Worst Policy Developments Of 2019
Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
TABOR wins in Colorado – Without question, the best fiscal system for a jurisdiction is a spending cap that fulfills my Golden Rule. Colorado’s constitution has such a policy, known as TABOR (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights). Pro-spending lobbies put an initiative on the ballot to eviscerate the provision, but voters wisely rejected the measure this past November by a nearly 10-point margin.
This year’s defeat of Proposition CC was a bitter experience for the state’s Democrats and liberal groups, but apparently not a didactic one, at least for the latter. Proposals are already in the works for some new iterations of the ubiquitous tax-increase ballot measures which crop up every second election or so, just to see if perseverance will ultimately win out over fiscal literacy.
Most of the proposals are conjured up by groups like the leftist Colorado Fiscal Institute, which houses some presumably very bright people whose economic analysis nevertheless boils down invariably to tugging on the General Assembly’s sleeve and pointing at someone else’s wallet.
Carol Hedges, executive director of CFI, said in an interview in some other publication that “what I took away from Prop. CC was that was not the solution.” Clearly. She goes on to say “that solution didn’t address the concerns of folks who voted in the election, and we have an obligation to solve those problems.”
What problems are those, exactly?