Nov 03

Hickenlooper’s budget plan endorses tax rebates, new state spending

 

Gov. John Hickenlooper (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file photo)

A day before voters decide whether to give him another term, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday unveiled a $26.8 billion state budget proposal for the next fiscal year that includes about $200 million in rebates to taxpayers.

The Democrat’s spending plan represents $1.7 billion in new spending in federal and state money, a 7 percent increase from the current fiscal year budget.

The $908 million in new state spending includes $103 million for road projects, $107 million in additional funds for higher education and a 2 percent pay hike for most state employees.

The new money available reflects Colorado’s improving economy but tax collections also exceeded the state’s revenue cap under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — triggering rebates for the first time in 15 years.

Hickenlooper’s budget puts aside $167.2 million for a TABOR rebate in the fiscal year 2015-16 budget, which state law directs toward a tax credit for low-income workers and sales tax refunds.

The constitutional provision mandates refunds when revenue exceeds the rate of inflation and population growth, unless voters decide to return the money.

Hickenlooper sidestepped the question about how to rebate another $30.5 million in excess recreational marijuana taxes, leaving it to state lawmakers to decide the appropriate method.

The TABOR rebate issue became a campaign touch-point a month ago when Hickenlooper wavered on whether he would endorse a tax rebate or ask voters for permission to spend it, but eventually committed to a rebate at an Oct. 24 debate.

The governor’s aides briefed reporters on the budget proposal Monday afternoon while Hickenlooper worked the campaign trail.

In his 28-page letter to lawmakers outlining his plan, Hickenlooper touted the state’s economy. “Colorado’s economic activity continues to outperform the national expansion,” he said.

Republican challenger Bob Beauprez saw the governor’s budget as an opportunity to poke at Hickenlooper about the TABOR rebates, which he firmly supported in the campaign.

“We’re pleased that, thanks to Bob Beauprez’s leadership, John Hickenlooper has suddenly discovered it’s the taxpayers’ money, not his,” campaign spokesman Allen Fuller said in a statement. “Even this election eve 180-degree flip is not enough to erase over a decade of pushing for billions in tax increases.”

The timing of the governor’s budget release only added to the political context, but the date is prescribed in state law. The Joint Budget Committee — a panel of three House and three Senate lawmakers — will meet Nov. 12 to hear Hickenlooper’s plan and begin deliberations.

Other key provisions in the governor’s plan include:

• A total $480 million more for education, including a one-time $200 million infusion from state coffers, to increase per pupil funding to $7,496, a $475 increase.

• Another $155 million to cover an expected 218,000 new Medicaid patients whose cost is not entirely paid by the federal government under the program’s expansion

• More than $8 million for counties to hire 130 new child welfare employees meant to reduce onerous case loads.

• An additional $282 million to finish state constructions projects underway, including money to reduce wait times by upgrading the state’s driver’s license system.

Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said she supports Hickenlooper’s spending priorities. “We are at a turning point with the economic recovery, and we have a lot at stake with this next budget,” she said in a statement.

What happens Election Day will influence the budget plan’s direction. Democrats now control both chambers and hold a 4-to-2 advantage on the budget committee.

The state House is likely to remain in Democratic hands, but Republicans are vying for control of the state Senate. If Republicans win the Senate majority, the budget committee will split the political parties 3 to 3.

If Beauprez wins, he will get the opportunity to submit his own budget proposal early next year.

John Frank: 303-954-2409, jfrank@denverpost.com or twitter.com/ByJohnFrank

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26856988/hickenloopers-budget-plan-endorses-tax-rebates-new-state

Nov 01

Colorado Taxpayers May See First TABOR Refunds in 15 Years

By Jackson Brainerd

As Colorado’s economy rebounds in the aftermath of the Great Recession, taxpayers may receive a tax refund courtesy of the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).

TABOR, the nation’s most stringent tax and expenditure limitation, mandates refunds when revenue exceeds the rate of inflation plus population growth, unless voters decide to let the state keep the money.For the first time in 15 years, Colorado’s tax collections are expected to exceed TABOR’s revenue cap. Lawmakers are in a quandary over whether to return the money to taxpayers, or ask their permission to keep it.  Since its implementation in 1992, the state has refunded more than $2 billion to taxpayers.  Voters have chosen to forgo refunds before, however, most notably when they approved Referendum C in 2005 to raise the state’s revenue limit in the midst of a difficult budget climate due to TABOR limitations.

Governor John Hickenlooper, who will submit his proposed budget to the legislature on Nov. 3, has not yet indicated if he will recommend a tax refund, or let voters decide through a referendum. If the surplus is refunded, the Colorado Legislative Council has estimated that lawmakers will need to set aside $125.1 million for fiscal year (FY) 2017 and $392.6 million for FY 2018.

In FY 2017, the refund would come in the form of an earned income tax credit and sales tax refund estimated at $11 per taxpayer. The next year, it would come as a temporary income tax rate reduction from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent and a six-tier sales tax refund would also become available.

Embroiled in this discussion is the fate of $30.5 million of marijuana tax revenue. Even though voters already approved this money for education spending in 2013 via Proposition AA, it could be returned to them in the likely event that state fiscal year spending  exceeds the 2013 Blue Book estimate for FY 2015.

A TABOR provision regarding new taxes requires a full refund in such cases (though state legislators may be frustrated by the absence of statutory guidelines regarding how these excess tax dollars should find their way back to taxpayers). Should this occur, lawmakers will either have to dip into the General Fund to compensate for the lost education money, or Colorado’s school system will have to go without.

The silver lining surrounding this issue is that Colorado’s economy is growing. While many in the state would like to take this opportunity to rebuild programs that received years of cuts during the recession, others would prefer to see the TABOR refunds carried out.

Jackson Brainerd is a research analyst in NCSL’s Fiscal Affairs Program.

http://www.ncsl.org/blog/2014/10/30/colorado-taxpayers-may-see-first-tabor-refunds-in-15-years.aspx

Oct 28

Colorado Goes to the Supreme Court to Defend TABOR

Three years ago, a group of primarily government plaintiffs sued in federal district court to void Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR allows the people, not just the legislature, to vote on most tax increases, most debt increases, and some spending hikes.

http://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2014/10/colorado-goes-to-the-supreme-court-to-defend-tabor/

Oct 27

Petitioner’s Supplemental Appendix To The Petition For Writ Of Certiorari

Plaintiff seeks enforcement of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights of the Colorado
Constitution (“TABOR”).  TABOR requires a vote of the people
before the State or any local government may: create new debt, levy new taxes, increase tax
rates, or institute tax policy changes directly causing a net tax revenue gain. Id. Without a vote
of the people, the Colorado Bridge Enterprise has created new debt, levied new taxes, increased
tax rates, and instituted tax policy changes causing a net tax revenue gain to the Colorado
Department of Transportation and the Bridge Enterprise. By taking these actions without a vote
of the people, Defendants have violated the rights of Plaintiff’s members to vote on the
imposition of new taxes and debt, as guaranteed by TABOR. Plaintiff therefore seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief to abate and correct Defendants’ unconstitutional actions.

 

Supplemental Appendix Final

Oct 20

GUEST COLUMN: Ballot Question 1B: A dishonest tax increase

By Jeff CrankPublished: October 20, 2014

El Paso County Ballot question 1B is nothing more than a dishonest attempt to fool voters. Its shameful deception rises to the level of the misleading term-limits language of a few years ago. If you remember the term limits language that implied that a “yes” vote “limited” terms when it actually extended them, then question 1B this year might ring a bell. 1B imposes a tax of $92.40 per year on the average household in El Paso County for the next 20 years and beyond. That is a minimum tax increase of $1,848 per property and likely much higher. However, you wouldn’t know these facts just by reading the ballot language.

Pretty harsh to say it is deceptive, but the facts leave little doubt. First, the language calls the tax a “fee.” Why? If they called it a tax, the Colorado Constitution would require the ballot language to start out by saying “shall taxes be increased by $39,275,650 for 2016 and each year after for 20 years.” By cleverly calling the tax a fee, they can now start the language with “Are you in favor of funding emergency needs caused by flooding.” It was worded this way to enhance the ability to get it passed but it is nothing more than a way to trick you into believing that the money coming out of your pocket is a fee and not a tax. After all, it is on your property tax bill.

The sleight of hand continues. Rather than being honest about how much you’re going to pay each year, they broke down the amount per month. They could have said that it would cost the average homeowner $1,848 over the next 20 years. Instead, they broke down the amount by month – to $7.70 per month. Why not break it down to the day, hour or second? By the way, if you do the math, it is just over a penny per hour tax increase.

Question 1B also creates a government bureaucracy and then exempts it from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights provisions of the Colorado Constitution.

In other words, it creates a bureaucracy and then allows that bureaucracy to vote to extend the tax (that they call a fee) without going to the citizens for a vote of the people.

As Mayor Steve Bach, who strongly opposes 1B, stated, “the new $92.40 stormwater fee is about the same amount the average residential property owner now pays for all city services combined.” That’s right, you’ll pay as much property tax for stormwater as you do for police, fire, snow removal, street repair, parks, arts, etc. Imagine this new unaccountable bureaucracy getting as much property tax as the city of Colorado Springs, never having to face an election and having the ability to increase ?the tax at their whim and without voter approval.

If this tax increase of $785 million over 20 years weren’t offensive enough, the audacity of the language should convince any citizen to vote “no.” The drafters of the language trying to pull the wool over voters eyes by calling a tax a “fee”; reducing the yearly tax amount to make it appear smaller; and thumbing their nose at the voters by taking away the right to vote on tax increases make this as deceptive and misleading as any ballot language we’ve ever seen.

Our stormwater problem is real and it should be addressed, but Question 1B is not the answer. I hope you’ll join Mayor Bach, myself and many other community leaders in voting “no.”

Jeff Crank is a talk show host on AM 740 KVOR and the president of Aegis Strategic, LLC.

http://gazette.com/guest-column-ballot-question-1b-a-dishonest-tax-increase/article/1539836

Oct 08

Sen. Mark Udall says TABOR should be left alone

By

Udall made his position known Tuesday night in The Denver Post Senate debate where he and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner squared off.

One of the yes/no questions the pair was asked was about the 1992 voter-approved ballot measure that controls taxation and spending in Colorado. Should it be changed or altered?

Gardner said “no,” a stance adopted by many conservative Republicans over the years. Udall also said “no.”

“You’re kidding,” said former lawmaker Norma Anderson, a Lakewood Republican who is part of a bipartisan group of current and former state legislators and local officials challenging the constitutionality of TABOR in federal court.

“I’ll be damned.”

The suit alleges that TABOR, which prohibits the legislature from raising taxes without a vote of the people, limits the General Assembly’s power in violation of the U.S. Constitution guarantee that states have a “republican” government, in which the authority to govern is given to elected officials. The plaintiffs argue in court filings that TABOR has caused “a slow, inexorable slide into fiscal dysfunction” in Colorado.

Gardner called out Udall on his TABOR answer.

“I find it curious that Sen. Udall supports TABOR when he actually has supported tax increase after tax increase at the state level,” he said, during the debate.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and his challenger,  Republican Rep.  Cory Gardner, at The Denver Post debate Oct. 7  (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post

http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2014/10/07/mark-udall-tabor-gardner-taxpayers-bill-of-rights/113647/

Oct 08

Adams County District Court Judge Ted Tow rules that lawsuit challenging Aurora Gaylord project can proceed

Adams County District Court Judge Ted C. Tow ruled last Friday (29 August 2014) that a lawsuit challenging tax incentives offered by the city of Aurora to developers of the Gaylord hotel project can go forward.  Plaintiffs had challenged Aurora’s tax incentives – including creation of an “enhanced taxing area” and a special election to raise taxes to finance the project – violated Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

As reported in a recent Colorado Springs Gazette article,

The Aurora City Council ?authorized the enhanced taxing area and the election to raise taxes at a meeting in June 2011. Only one person voted in the election as the land included in the taxing area is owned by a single corporate entity.

Rather takes the “one man, one vote” principle to a whole new level, eh?

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.

However, we can’t do it alone –  we need your continued support; via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions.  Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.

Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/2014/09/01/adams-county-district-court-judge-ted-tow-rules-that-lawsuit-challenging-aurora-gaylord-project-can-proceed/

Oct 01

No benefits to TABOR according to the CEA

TABOR friends,

Colorado’s Education Association President, Kerrie Dallman, welcomed many thousands of delegates at the National Education Association to Denver this summer for its national convention.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb_62weV7EE&sns=em

If you wondered how your friends and family in the education profession might be willing to respect the citizens’ Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, please watch just one minute of the attached video, starting at into 1.30 it.  Realize how that message was then taken back across the nation.  Then consider the TABOR Committee’s mission to inform people in other states of the TABOR benefits.

(In the last two minutes of the video, Dallman talks about the Community Organizers imported and hired into JeffCO since this spring to work against new school board policies.  And to think that the media reported the walk-outs as if they were spontaneous.)

Penn Pfiffner

 

Sep 29

CO Revenue Forecast Shows Continued Growth

state of colorado logo

The latest revenue forecast shows continued growth with the state’s General Fund revenue expected to grow 7.4 percent in FY 2014-15 and 6.4 percent in FY 2015-16.

Projections show an increase of $80.9 million in FY 2014-15, or 0.8 percent higher than compared to the June 2014 forecast. Projections for FY 2015-16 are 1.3 percent, or $131 million higher.

“Colorado’s economy continues to expand at a pace that is among the best in the nation,” the Office of State Planning and Budget reported today. “The state’s concentration of individuals and businesses focused on products that are in high demand in today’s economy continues to feed economic growth.  Colorado also benefits from a high degree of business dynamism, as well as a growing culture for innovation and collaboration among individuals and firms. However, not all parts of the state are experiencing the same degree of economic strength.”

Income taxes from wage withholdings and sales tax collections continue to grow at a solid pace due to Colorado’s economic expansion.

The state’s General Fund reserve now is projected to be $232.6 million above its required amount for FY 2014-15.

The state is projected to end FY 2013-14 with $235.8 million above its required amount based on preliminary information from the State Controller.  All but $25 million of this money, which remains in the General Fund, is allocated to various cash funds, including $135.3 million to the Capital Construction Fund.   Several higher education capital construction projects will proceed as a result.

TABOR revenue is forecast to be $48 million, or just 0.4 percent, below the Referendum C cap in the current fiscal year, which is within the normal range of possible forecast adjustments.  TABOR revenue is forecast to exceed the cap by $133.1 million in FY 2015-16 and $239.4 million in FY 2016-17, meaning that a refund to taxpayers is required under this forecast, unless voters allow the State to retain the revenue.

Though a TABOR refund is projected, the money forecast to be available in the FY 2015-16 General Fund would allow for a 10.5 percent increase in appropriations.  Meanwhile, under current law, as a result of the TABOR refunds in FY 2015-16 and FY 2016-17, SB 09-228 transfers will be reduced by half.

Under this forecast, in FY 2015-16, revenue above the Referendum C cap would be refunded through the State Earned Income Tax Credit to qualified taxpayers and the sales tax refund to all taxpayers.  In FY 2016-17, revenue above the Referendum C cap would be refunded through a temporary income tax rate reduction and the sales tax refund.

Many indicators point to a continued economic expansion. A special set of unique circumstances, however, could result in an economic slowdown.  One risk is less accommodative monetary policy.  Also, current weaker global economic conditions, as well as continued geopolitical tensions, are concerns.  Unexpected events surrounding these issues could have negative implications for the economy and result in revenue collections that are substantially different from this forecast.  It is also important to note that even relatively small changes in the projected growth rate of revenue can materially impact the budget outlook.

http://theprowersjournal.com/2014/09/co-revenue-forecast-shows-continued-growth/