Dec 19

Estimated $15 TABOR refund in 2017 could keep CDOT from getting $271 million for I-70 viaduct plan

A Colorado taxpayer refund of around $15 could keep the Colorado Department of Transportation from getting $271 million for its Interstate 70 viaduct project.

CDOT has been working on a plan to lower the I-70 viaduct, put a cap over some of the road and add two toll lanes in each direction from Interstate 25 to Interstate 225. That project is estimated at $1.2 billion.

CDOT was anticipated $271 million from the state, as a result of a funding mechanism from a Senate bill (SB 228) passed in 2009. However, if Colorado taxpayers are due a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) refund, then CDOT’s share of state money would be reduced or eliminated altogether. Continue reading

Dec 18

Coloradans face choice: tax refund or pay for services, governor says

LISTEN

Audio: Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks with Ryan Warner

Newly re-elected Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper smiles to applauding supporters as he arrives to deliver his victory speech, at the Capitol, in Denver, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Hickenlooper won a second term in office, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Bob Beauprez.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper says that voters will soon face difficult decisions regarding the state’s finances.Economists predict the state will be forced to refund excess tax money to citizens under to Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in coming years.

Hickenlooper says that will mean the state may have to cut some essential services. As an example, he says the state won’t be able to provide oversight of nursing homes to the extent it currently does — and at a time when the nursing home population is growing.

 

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Dec 18

DOOM AND GLOOM: Hickenlooper Promises Sky Will Fall If State Gives Tax Refunds

$19,000 office decor?  I'll sign the check myself.

In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper bemoaned the idea that the State of Colorado would have to refund tax dollars to taxpayers as part of the Colorado constitution.  From the article:

“Hickenlooper says [giving funds back to taxpayers] will mean the state may have to cut some essential services. As an example, he says the state won’t be able to provide oversight of nursing homes to the extent it currently does — and at a time when the nursing home population is growing.”

Given this dire proclamation that nursing homes will lack oversight – Grandma is in danger! – we assume that the state budget contains absolutely no fat that it could trim from superfluous or wasteful programs.  Wait.  What’s that?  There are areas of massive waste.  But, what about Grandma?  Here are some suggested areas from which to cut the fat:

  • Rein in Connect for Health Colorado’s spending as a recent audit showed that the exchange was blowing through tax dollars, some of which enriched Democratic political operatives, like Hick’s campaign team.  While much of the exchange was federally-funded, the state spent at least $20 million in 2013 to support the out-of-control organization.  The worst offense?  Nearly $40,000 for promotional lip balm.  Grandma could have some silky soft lips with $40,ooo in chapstick.  Then, there was the firm given $129,000 to engage voters in healthcare – a contract that the audit found to be so incomplete that it was unclear whether campaign finance laws were broken. (We’re guessing yes.)
  • Leave the Morrison bridge alone.  U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn listed this bridge as one of the worst wastes in the country in his 2014 annual “Wastebook”.  Apparently, there was talk about whether the bridge would have to be torn down for not using enough steel manufactured in the United States.  We can appreciate the sentiment, but wasting more tax dollars isn’t the answer.  This would cost at least $20,000 to fix, according to the report.

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Dec 18

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch: TABOR May Take Money from Colorado Schools

PHOTO: Colorado may have to return the $30 million collected so far from the tax on recreational marijuana because of the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR law. Photo credit: Meghan Barkley/Flickr.

PHOTO: Colorado may have to return the $30 million collected so far from the tax on recreational marijuana because of the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR law. Photo credit: Meghan Barkley/Flickr.

 

December 16, 2014

DENVER – At least $30 million has been generated so far by Colorado’s special tax on the sale of marijuana, but some “fine print” in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) law may force the state to refund the money marijuana sales have generated, instead of it going to schools.

According to Proposition AA, passed in 2013, the first $40 million generated by taxes on recreational marijuana would be allocated to build and fix rural schools.

Economist Chris Stiffler with the Colorado Fiscal Institute says the story reads much like a popular holiday cartoon.

“Twice now, voters have said they want to tax marijuana and give it to schools,” says Stiffler. “Now, because of this weird quirk in TABOR, we’re going to have to actually return all the money generated from the marijuana taxes. This is like the Grinch sneaking into town on Christmas Eve and instead of stealing your presents, stealing the roof off the schools.”

The refunds will be issued because the state’s estimate of the total tax revenue it would have at this point was off by less than one percent. That includes all tax revenue, not just the tax on marijuana. Under TABOR, that discrepancy triggers tax refunds. As for how the refund will be handled – one proposal would temporarily lower taxes on recreational marijuana.

Stiffler says the current issue with TABOR is an example of why the amendment creates impractical situations for the state as it enacts policies.

“On paper, TABOR looks really good when you talk about voters’ ability to vote on their own taxes,” says Stiffler. “But when you really think about TABOR, you run into a lot of these unintended consequences. This marijuana rebate, the fact that we have to maybe vote three times to tax marijuana and give it to schools, is one of those consequences.”

Stiffler says it’s likely Colorado voters will have to approve the tax on recreational marijuana an additional time. Last year, 65 percent of voters approved Proposition AA.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service – CO

– See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2014-12-16/consumer-issues/youre-a-mean-one-mr-grinch-tabor-may-take-money-from-colorado-schools/a43398-1#sthash.Z8UMxCoD.dpuf

Dec 17

GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY: Hullinghorst Desires To Defy TABOR

House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst

We love Democrats who live in such insulated liberal enclaves, they have no problem forgetting that Democrats lose when they show their true colors.  Luckily for us, Colorado House Democrats decided to make just such a Democrat their #1.  Yesterday in a Denver Post article, new Majority Leader, Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, says “I’ve never met a tax dollar I haven’t wanted to spend.”  Now, we might be taking some liberties in that paraphrase right there, but the sentiment is dead on as Hullinghorst proposes stiffing Coloradan tax-payers $130 million in tax refunds just because she wants to spend the money.  As The Denver Post reports:

…incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst made the most direct suggestion that Democrats may support a ballot measure in 2015 to ask voters to keep the money for state spending instead of issuing a refund.

… the Boulder Democrat said. “The people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

We agree wholeheartedly with Hullinghorst, Colorado would probably be better off if that money went to roads and educating Colorado kids.  But, there’s no way in hell we’re giving Hullinghorst that money because that money wouldn’t be going to roads and kids.  Instead, it’d be going to public education unions already engorged on tax-payer dollars.  Or, maybe another pet project of Gov. John Hickenlooper where he spends $100 million to throw a parade for his BFF Michael Bloomberg (never Bloomberg mind that we don’t have roads here to have that parade on).

It doesn’t really help Hullinghorst’s putting the people of Colorado first plea, when one realizes it is the poorest who will benefit the most directly from a TABOR refund.  Sure, what may be just one more tank of gas for Hullinghorst could be the difference between making this month’s rent for those who can’t afford to live in Boulder.

TABOR was put into place to control just such tendencies, recognizing the reality that Democrats always feel like there’s another tax-payer dollar out there for them to spend.  And TABOR is doing its job right now; if Colorado Democrats are going to follow their playbook of taxing and spending us to death, they’ll have to do it in full public view for everyone to see.  Unlike other states, where convoluted budget processes and a lack of a requirement to stay within a specific budget allows state legislatures to stuff all sorts of pork into budgets, if Hullinghorst wants to defy TABOR, she’ll have to do so with a whole host of attention on her.  While this may not threaten her own seat in the People’s Republic of Boulder, such a gospel of tax and spend will certainly threaten her majority in the rest of the state.

TABOR once again is the emergency brake from Colorado Democrats driving us off any fiscal cliffs.

http://coloradopeakpolitics.com/2014/12/03/give-money-hullinghorst-desires-defy-tabor/

Dec 16

Ahead of second term, Hickenlooper strikes sober tone on state budget needs

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday delivered his fourth State of the State address. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

A month before his second term, Gov. John Hickenlooper is painting a bleak picture of Colorado’s future budget situation, even as he touts the state’s improving economic fortunes.

“We are going to have real difficult challenges in terms of how we address pretty much any basic infrastructure (spending need): transportation, K-12 education, higher education, healthcare,” he told the Denver Forum at a luncheon Tuesday. “Some of the things we’ve taken for granted and counted on in terms of our quality of life, we probably won’t be able to continue to afford.”

The reason for the strife, as the Democrat made clear, is the state’s constitutional spending limit known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. It’s politically volatile to point the finger at TABOR and Hickenlooper sought to walk a fine line as he raised the stakes.

Next year, Colorado lawmakers are anticipating budgeting taxpayer refunds because the state’s revenues are exceeding the inflation-plus-population-growth-cap for the first time in 15 years.

Unless lawmakers seek to keep the money (which is an idea being floated at the Capitol), the refunds will go out the door even as the state struggles to meet its constitutional requirement to fund education under what is known as Amendment 23. The state is short $900 million on education funding, according to analysts.

“Amendment 23 requires us to spend more. TABOR requires us to spend less. It really is a Gordian knot,” he said.

Hickenlooper expects this to come to a head two years from now, when refunds are expected to continue and grow.

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Dec 15

“SHOULD 1st YEAR TAXES FROM PROP AA BE RETAINED?

This is disingenuous at best, but I would call it an outright lie. Marijuana taxes are less than the expected TABOR refunds. All the money goes into the general fund, where one dollar is indistinguishable from the next. It is more honest to say that thanks to marijuana taxes and an improving economy, the government coffers are overflowing and they will return money to the taxpayers.  Not according to Pat Steadman.  Read on:

“SHOULD 1st YEAR TAXES FROM PROP AA BE RETAINED?

If you’ve been keeping score, voters have twice voted to tax and regulate marijuana in Colorado. In 2012 we passed Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana and instructed the legislature to create laws for taxation and regulation. In 2013 the legislature referred Proposition AA to the ballot, proposing a tax scheme that voters overwhelmingly adopted.

But it doesn’t stop there – I’m working on a bill for 2015 that would ask voters to allow the tax revenues generated by Prop AA during its first full-year of implementation to be retained and spent. Yes, thanks to a peculiar provision of the TABOR Amendment, you’ll have to vote a third time to make the pot taxes work as intended. Continue reading

Dec 08

TABOR must die for Colorado to survive

Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate columnist

Editor: Another uninformed idiot who wants to raise taxes so you can pay more.
Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate columnist

I couldn’t help but notice that on this page last week CU economist Barry Poulson made numerous false claims about the “benefits” of TABOR refunds. That’s what conservatives do when the facts don’t support their doctrine. They … well, um, in the interest of not name-calling a fellow academic, I’ll just say that they tend to stretch the truth. A lot.

Poulson says that, if TABOR funds are returned to taxpayers in Colorado, you and I will enjoy between $50 and $100 refunds. Per year. And he says that will stimulate the state’s economy.

Fifty bucks? Seriously? Because I live in the real world, I personally know dozens of people who live at or below the federal poverty level, and to say that $50 a year would make a difference in their lives is an insult. They spend that on cigarettes every payday. That’s one tank of gas a year. A year!

Here’s the problem: Like most professional academics, Poulson doesn’t live in the same world you and I live in. His world is theoretical, and there are certain theories that are sacrosanct. Never mind that dribble-down economics (the poor are grateful for the crumbs of the rich) has been discredited in real life so often that even most conservatives have abandoned it. Poulson hangs onto it because (1) he’s paid to do that and (2) he hasn’t read a book on economics since 1997.

 

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Dec 06

Don’t condescend on TABOR refund, Democrats

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

TABOR1 pictureDemocrats in the legislature are flirting with the idea of a ballot measure asking voters if the state can keep a likely refund dictated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Good for them. The state needs the money to backfill both K-12 and higher education, and for transportation.

But Democrats might want to refine their pitch. According to incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, “people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

Intentionally or not, her statement oozes the sort of condescension that voters detest.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_27061668/dont-condescend-tabor-refund-democrats

 

Dec 06

Diverging from Hickenlooper, Democrats consider not supporting tax refund

 Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an election-eve budget plan that supported taxpayer refunds next year, but his Democratic colleagues in the legislature are openly considering a move to spend the money.

The talk comes as the Joint Budget Committee continues preliminary meetings to craft the state budget and raises the specter of an intraparty showdown on one of the top legislative issues in the upcoming 2015 session.

Under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, Colorado must return any tax collections in excess of its constitutional revenue cap, which is set by the rate of inflation plus population growth. Right now, the state forecasts a potential $130 million refund.

In a recent interview, noted in a story looking at Hickenlooper’s second term, incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst made the most direct suggestion that Democrats may support a ballot measure in 2015 to ask voters to keep the money for state spending instead of issuing a refund

TABOR picture“If we don’t do anything as a state, we are going to be spending almost as much money as we refund, refunding money to people, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of common sense to me,” the Boulder Democrat said. “The people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

Hullinghorst didn’t elaborate, but the cost for refunding TABOR is typically negligible because it’s done through tax filings.

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