Assault on Civic Engagement
Stop House Bill 1041 — A Public Information Tax
The most regressive public policy proposal to come out of the Colorado capitol in years is Senator Kefalas’s “citizens-be-damned” bill to impose significant fees on citizens seeking public information. It is a direct assault on the public’s right to be informed about activities of their goverment.
This video spoofs the bill’s impact, but it’s not hard to imagine the troublesome realities in your hometown.
Public Information Tax (User Pay) in Coloradoville
Research Fees — The New Tax
“Research fees” for public records are not authorized by Colorado statute. Most local governments do not currently charge such fees for records review. Bill 1041 mandates a drastic change to begin imposing research fees on citizens unless waived.
The default setting for cash-strapped governments such as school boards, state agencies, fire districts, and clerks’ offices will become “fee-based, user-pay records disclosure,” and waivers will become the exception rather than the rule. The press has written about the controversial bill, but HB1041 is being pushed by lawmakers faster than the public can catch up in order to protest. See recent articles in Colorado Independent,Boulder Weekly, and Colorado Statesman. Continue reading
UPDATED: 12/01/2012 12:08:53 AM MST
By Tim Hoover The Denver Post
The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association is one of 21 state pension funds that are not “fiscally sound,” according to a national investment research firm.
The report, from Morningstar Inc., found that 21 states’ aggregate funded ratios were below 70 percent, the threshold which Morningstar considers a system to be “fiscally sound.” The funded ratio was determined by dividing a pension plan’s assets by its liabilities.
PERA has $26 billion in unfunded liabilities. Lawmakers in 2010 passed a bipartisan piece of legislation that raised retirement ages for government workers, reduced annual cost-of-living adjustments and required increased contributions from government employers and their workers.
The Morningstar study said Colorado’s PERA funded ratio for its state division was 57.7 percent, the number it based its “not fiscally sound” determination on. However, some of PERA’s individual divisions were better off. The Denver Public Schools fund, for example, was funded at 81.5 percent, while the local and judicial divisions were each at 69.3 percent. Continue reading
May 03, 2012 7:31 PM
BARRY POULSON and PENN PFIFFNER
This legislative session Colorado HB1250 was introduced to begin addressing an unfunded billion-dollar liability in the Public Employee Retirement Association’s (PERA) retiree health care benefit program. Its own sponsor then killed the bill after it came under a fire storm of hysteria-tinged and false criticisms, fueled by one-sided media coverage.
Colorado taxpayers lost an important opportunity for the Legislature to begin the fundamental reforms required to put PERA on a sustainable fiscal path. Instead PERA will continue to carry huge unfunded liabilities that in the absence of reform will eventually require a taxpayer bailout or PERA retirees being denied their promised benefits.
About a dozen years ago, PERA established a health care program for people who retire before age 65 and no longer are covered by their government employer for health insurance. Local governments, school districts and state government contribute annually. The program is a type of “defined benefit.” In other words, a promise with no cap to the cost.
The PERA health benefit also gives retirees a direct premium subsidy even after they turn 65 and begin using the taxpayer-supplied Medicare.
HB 1250 would have changed the program from an open-ended promise to pay retirees whatever it takes, to a $230 fixed subsidy — the amount they receive today. Additionally, eligibility for PERA’s retiree health insurance would have been restricted to those 65 years of age and under, and thus not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Continue reading
By Rob Natelson**
If you are exposed to enough politics, sooner or later you’ll hear the old saw that the U.S. is “a republic and not a democracy.” Along with that saying goes the following claim: Allowing voter initiatives and referenda is unconstitutional: If a state lets voters enact laws or veto tax hikes, the state is too democratic to meet the Constitution’s mandate that it have a “republican form of government.”
A new Independence Institute Issue Paper, which I authored, examines those assertions in detail. The Paper shows that both are essentially myths.
The nation’s best-known measure requiring voter approval of most tax hikes is Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), adopted by the voters in 1992. This Issue Paper is published in response to a legal attack on TABOR: A group of government apologists has sued in federal court claiming that by limiting legislative control over fiscal measures, Colorado has violated the U.S. Constitution.
In a nutshell, the new Issue Paper finds:
* The American Founders did not firmly distinguish between a “republic” and a “democracy.” Some used the two words as if they were synonymous. Some adopted the view of Montesquieu that there were two kinds of republics: (1) Those controlled by a few (aristocracies) and (2) those controlled by the many (democracies).
* Dictionaries of the time defined “republic” as merely a popular government, as opposed to a monarchy. One encyclopedia-type dictionary included an article tracking Montesquieu’s definitions. Continue reading
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – City Council hosted an open house to gather feedback on April’s potential TABOR ballot question.
In 2007, voters approved the use of Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights to fund construction on Riverside Parkway. Once the bill is paid, which could be as early as 2015, that approvile will expire.
‘Now, the city hopes to get voter permission once again in order for new projects and planning to begin.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” said Clark Atkinson, Grand Junction resident who backs TABOR funding. “To stop investing in our capital improvements will result in a decay and put Grand Junction behind other communities, not only in the Western Slope but in Colorado and the whole region.”
“I think that we should just stop for awhile and maintain the infrastructure that we have,” said Richard Hathorne, local resident against TABOR funding, “put a good roof on it, paint it, fix the plumbing and electrical, and just idle for awhile. We don’t need anything new. Give us a break.”
Comment cards will be distributed through city utility bills early next week, or comments can be sent in through their website on the link listed below.