Nov 11

Under the Dome: Tough budget work about to begin

bob rankin

Rep. Bob Rankin

After a week of great fall weather, it was snowing hard at my house the last two mornings. Summer was way too short. Joyce and I go back to Denver this week and start activity that will be nonstop through next May. But we’re not complaining. It’s an honor to represent Northwest Colorado in the Legislature, and we look forward to what’s coming.

The six-person Joint Budget Committee (JBC), of which I’m a member, starts hearings Thursday. We’ll be grinding through the performance measures, organization and budgets of 22 state government departments. Our wonderful nonpartisan staff members spend all year analyzing every aspect of all the departments in detail and then, in their first presentation, shovels it to us in a few hours. They seem to have a sincere belief that we can absorb so much information and data. The committee asks a lot of questions, and the department comes back another day and answers our questions. We put together a balanced budget by March and present it to both houses of the Legislature.

The JBC starts with a budget recommendation from the governor that is synthesized from department inputs and revenue forecasts. This year looks to be problematic, and I expect a tumultuous process to get to our March budget. To start with, the forecasts (they will change twice before March) indicate a $160 million shortfall for the current fiscal year that ends in July. The recommendation is that we take this sum from our 6.5 percent reserve and replace the reserve next year. Continue reading

Oct 12

Collection and Usage of the FASTER Motor Vehicle Fees Audit

Colorado Senate Bill 09-108, known as FASTER (Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act of 2009) has collected $1.4 Billion in “fees” over six years.  The most recent State Auditors report found:

  • Deficiencies in half of their processes for collecting the “fees.”
  • CDOT (Colorado Department Of Transportation) also needs to improve its oversight and management. 
  • CDOT, Colorado Dept of Revenue, and Colorado Judicial all agreed with the recommendations presented.

More money + bigger government control = major problems.

The TABOR Foundation replied, “we told you so.”

It’s your taxes, oops we mean “fees,” that the government collects to fix Colorado’s roads and bridges.

Are they better now?

The quick summary is located on page 7 and shown below.

Read the audit report to decide for yourself.

http://www.leg.state.co.us/OSA/coauditor1.nsf/All/09AEE178D41A743187257E9E00767D33/$FILE/1410P%20Collection%20and%20Usage%20of%20the%20FASTER%20Motor%20Vehicle%20Fees,%20Performance%20Audit,%20August%202015.pdf

FASTER Bill Deficiencies1 FASTER Bill Deficiencies2

Oct 12

OPINION: VOTE “YES” ON 2D

Opinion: Vote “YES” on 2D

Posted By on Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 9:52 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK

  • Shutterstock

Colorado Springs city government finds itself with approximately $2.1 million in excess revenue 2014. Colorado’s Tax Payers Bill of Rights (TABOR) dictates that the city must either return the money to taxpayers or ask, via a vote, to keep the money for city projects. The city has elected to put forth ballot language, measure 2D, to ask taxpayers to let them keep the money to fix local trails this November election.

Council has worked with the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department to identify eight trails in the city that are in dire need of repair or improvements — repairs and improvements that will be paid for if voters approve the measure. The trails noted on the ballot include Homestead trail, Palmer Mesa Trail, Pikes Peak Greenway, Rock Island Trail, Sand Creek Trail, Shooks Run Trail, Sinton Trail and Skyline Trail — the measure does not allow for any new trails.
Continue reading

Oct 12

The attacks on TABOR continue

October 11, 2015

By Amy K. Frantz , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Do Legislators have a Constitutional right to impose taxes on citizens and to deny citizens any veto power over those actions? A group of politicians in Colorado seems to think so, and are continuing their quest to overturn the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, from the Colorado State Constitution.

In Colorado, citizens are permitted to place measures on the ballot by initiative petition, and in 1992 the TABOR Constitutional Amendment was adopted by Colorado voters. TABOR requires majority voter approval to increase tax rates, to take on new debt, or to increase spending more than the rate of inflation plus state population growth.

In the original provisions of TABOR, any revenue collected in excess of the spending limit, plus an emergency relief fund of 3 percent of fiscal year spending, had to be returned to the taxpayers in the form of rebates. However, in 2005 Colorado voters approved a measure to forego the rebates for five years, following a scare campaign conducted by the state’s big spenders.

Continue reading

Oct 11

YES: It’s what voters wanted

Employee Nikki Desiderio explains different marijuana products to customers at the Helping Hand recreational marijuana store in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso,Employee Nikki Desiderio explains different marijuana products to customers at the Helping Hand recreational marijuana store in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Opinion

YES: It’s what voters wanted

Proposition BB, the only statewide issue in Colorado’s elections this November, asks voters to “allow the state to retain and spend $66.1 million, which has already been collected, rather than refund it to taxpayers.”

Supporters of limited and cost-effective government understand the importance of reminding politicians and bureaucrats whose money they’re spending. Refunds of tax revenue are perhaps the single most-effective way of doing so. However, Proposition BB relates specifically to the refund of excise and sales taxes on marijuana, taxes approved by Colorado voters in 2013 through Proposition AA as required by the 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado.

If BB were to fail, the functional impact would be for the state not to have collected any of the voter-approved 15 percent state excise tax or 10 percent state sales tax on retail (non-medical) marijuana sales.

Two key points, as explained by the Legislative Council staff:

To continue reading this story, click this link: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_28945795/yes-its-what-voters-wanted

 

Oct 06

TABOR plans for years of taxpayer refunds

TABOR plans for years of taxpayer refunds

Under the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state and local governments are limited on how much they can grow their budgets.

Under the amendment, those year-over-year budget growths are based on a complicated formula subject to population growth and inflation.

Tax revenues that exceed that cap must be refunded to taxpayers, and that’s done depending on just how much revenue has exceeded the limit.

State economists say revenues from last year’s fiscal year, which ended June 30, resulted in a surplus of about $153.6 million. That means taxpayers will see a refund when they file their income tax returns next year, which is expected to average between $15 and $20 for individual filers.

Projections for the next two fiscal years are expected to be even higher: $252.5 million for the current fiscal year, which would be refunded with 2017 tax returns, and $352 million for the year after that.

If the hospital provider fee idea is approved during the next legislative session, which begins in January, it would eliminate the 2017 and 2018 refunds, but not the one planned for next year.

The fee, which is used to fund expanded Medicaid coverage, is collected from hospitals. But because it is counted as revenue for the state, it puts the state in a situation where the TABOR revenue cap is exceeded, triggering a mandatory refund. And that has the effect of cutting into funding for other state services, such as transportation and education.

Source: Colorado Legislative Council

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/tabor-plans-for-years-of-taxpayer-refunds

Oct 06

Lawmakers struggle with the politics of state’s budget

Lawmakers struggle with the politics of state’s budget

Health care advocates like it. So do crusaders of more funding for transportation and education.

Some Colorado lawmakers believe they can fix the state’s most immediate budget issues to meet those needs by making what, on the surface, appears to be an innocuous change in how the state accounts for a fee on hospitals to fund health programs for the poor.

What they want is to take that charge — called the hospital provider fee — out from under the revenue caps mandated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and call that program a standalone government enterprise, something allowed for under the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment that limits how much money the state can collect.

Doing so isn’t as easy as all that, however, because it would negate any TABOR refunds for years to come, turning the issue into more of a political question than one of policy.

REFUND, OR NO REFUND?

Some Republicans inside the statehouse say they have committed to taxpayers that they will refund money when state revenues exceed TABOR limits, something that will happen starting next year. Continue reading

Oct 06

Evolution of the state’s current tax constraints

It’s been called “The Fiscal Thicket” and “The Gordian Knot” over the past couple of decades, but however one terms it, there are conflicts in the state’s tax policies for good or ill.

While some don’t mind those conflicts, saying it keeps state and local budgets in check, others say it makes it nearly impossible to budget into the future, leaving some of the most basic needs going underfunded.

Here’s a timeline on how the state got here:

? 1982: It started when Colorado voters approved the Gallagher Amendment. That constitutional amendment split the state’s property tax burden, requiring commercial property to take the bulk of it, 55 percent, to residential at 45 percent. As a result, taxes for commercial property are assessed at 29 percent of its assessed value, while residential has dropped to 8 percent.

? 1992: A decade later, voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which, among other things, placed a cap on how much money state and local government budgets could grow year after year, limiting it to population increases and inflation. It also required that any new tax be approved by voters. As a result, few tax increase proposals have been placed on the ballot.

? 2000: As a result of those two amendments, voters then approved Amendment 23, which called for automatic increases in K-12 spending regardless of what the economy was doing. As a direct result, about 40 percent of the state’s total budget now goes to fund education.

? 2005: To deal with an issue in TABOR that required state and local budgets to ratchet down during bad economic times, voters approved a five-year timeout of TABOR’s revenue caps, meaning any additional revenue that governments collected during that time could be reapplied to state and local services.

? 2009: Because taxes for gasoline haven’t gone up since TABOR was approved, and there was an increase in caseload due to the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, the Colorado Legislature approved two new fees. One is known as the Road & Bridge Enterprise Fund, an additional fee that all Coloradans pay when registering their vehicles each year. The fund generates about $200 million a year for transportation projects. The second was the hospital provider fee, a charge hospitals pay to cover the cost of the additional uninsured Coloradans under the Affordable Care Act. This is the same year the Legislature created a “negative factor” on school funding, reducing how much money the state was paying for K-12 education.

Source: Colorado Legislative Council

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/evolution-of-the-states-current-tax-constraints