Apr 18

Gov. Hickenlooper asks lawmakers to overhaul state spending, TABOR refunds

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

The Spot Blog

Politics & Policy - The Spot BlogGov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday asked a divided legislature for a major overhaul in how the state spends money, outlining a plan that would shift taxpayer refunds in the next two years toward middle-income earners but eliminate the largest tax breaks expected in 2018.

In the most significant move so far in his second term, the Democrat is seeking to ease what he calls Colorado’s “fiscal thicket,” a mess of spending and taxing laws that often conflict and limit spending on priority areas, such as education and transportation.

“Colorado has great needs and extraordinary budgetary constraints,” Hickenlooper wrote to lawmakers in a four-page letter. This proposal “provides some measure of simplification of the rules we have and strikes a balance between limiting our revenue and addressing the needs of a growing state.”

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Apr 17

Hickenlooper asks for budgetary move to ensure Colorado roads funding

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday asked leaders in the Legislature to back a plan that would ensure years of increased funding for transportation and K-12 education in exchange for lowering the amounts of refunds going back to Colorado residents under the state constitution’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

In a letter, Hickenlooper endorsed a five-point plan that involves removing the six-year-old hospital provider fee and the nearly $600 million in revenues it brings in annually from the general-fund portion of the budget, a move that would reduce revenue that is considered to be under the state’s TABOR cap.

Bringing that revenue below cap levels would trigger full transfers of transportation funding — more than $200 million a year for the next four years — under a complex 2009 bill that tied that funding to personal-income growth and the amount the state budget could stay under the TABOR cap.

Business leaders have pushed the idea of relocating the hospital provider fee for months in an effort to get desperately needed money for the state’s aging and overcrowded roads, which have not received general-fund repair money since the 2007-08 fiscal year.

The move would not affect the amount of money generated for hospitals. Continue reading

Apr 07

Larimer County debates Scientific and cultural facilities district tax

LOVELAND, Colo. – Leaders in Larimer County are considering another attempt to put a scientific and cultural facilities district tax proposal on the general election ballot in 2016.

Bruce Freestone, who founded OpenStage Theatre Co. in Fort Collins with his wife Denise in 1973, is pushing cities to again consider the tax measure. He and Susan Ison, cultural services director for the city of Loveland, are inviting community members from northern Colorado to a meeting on Monday.

The Loveland Reporter-Herald reports organizers could seek voter approval in the 2016 election to create a taxing district to collect a 0.1 percent sales tax for cultural facility operations and maintenance in Larimer County.



Apr 07

The Glitch in Colorado’s Weed Experiment

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

The Glitch in Colorado’s Weed Experiment


boulder marijuana shop

A marijuana dispensary in Boulder, Colo. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times

After Colorado voters legalized marijuana, they also approved heavily taxing it and using the money for school construction, law enforcement, drug education and other useful things. The arrangement made perfect sense.

But now the 15-month-old experiment has entered a phase that makes no sense at all. It’s the prospect that all this new marijuana revenue — an estimated $58 million in the current fiscal year — may have to be returned to the voters, because of a provision in the state’s Constitution that rigidly constrains taxes and spending. The provision is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or Tabor, a complex set of rules that requires, among other things, voter approval of all new taxes and automatic refunds if tax revenues or spending exceed estimates given when tax questions are put to the voters.

As an April 1 report in The Times explained, Colorado’s tax revenues have recently surged, thanks in part to the booming construction, oil and gas industries, in addition to some $58 million from the marijuana taxes. But not only revenues but overall state spending this year are expected to end up higher than the state estimated back when the marijuana tax was on the ballot. Under Tabor — which some in Colorado have likened to a fiscal straitjacket or a statutory version of the crazed space computer HAL 9000 — the state is therefore required to refund the marijuana money. Continue reading

Apr 07

West Slope lawmakers talk TABOR, water at Club 20

West Slope lawmakers talk TABOR, water at Club 20

Thurlow chimes in on effort to recall him: ‘That’s their right’


By Ron Bain


GRAND JUNCTION — A panel of seven Western Slope legislators — six Republicans and one Democrat — discussed diverse issues they’re working on in the state legislature at the Club 20 annual meeting on March 28, focusing on water, energy, the economy, TABOR and federal lands.

Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, said he and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, had introduced a bill, SB 15-232, that would create a Federal Land Management Commission to study the transfer of federally managed public lands to Colorado. But that doesn’t mean the lands would be sold to the highest bidder, he added.

“I know there’s a lot of people running around with their hair on fire, afraid that we’re going to sell the lands, but that’s not what the bill is all about,” Baumgardner said.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who also attended the panel discussion, is the House sponsor for the land transfer study bill.

During a discussion of conflicting constitutional amendments, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, confessed that the state legislature has been making end runs around the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

“We did not follow the Constitution,” Roberts said. “We made up something called the ‘negative factor’. There are budgetary tricks.”

Amendment 23, which mandates yearly increases in K-12 education funding, is in conflict with TABOR, which restricts the growth of government revenues, a dilemma that several of the legislators complained about. Club 20 member Chris Treese asked the panel to discuss that conflict.

Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Aspen, said she was extremely frustrated by TABOR. Continue reading

Apr 07

Thanks for TABOR

T-C Line: Thanks for TABOR

POSTED:   04/03/2015 07:09:03 PM MDT

Balanced budget is good

Thank goodness for the TABOR law. Can you imagine living in Colorado and having a $3 to $5 billion debt? Twenty-five cents of every tax dollar goes to pay the debt, the money you borrowed to build something with, unreal. Smarten up, people. A balanced budget is a good way. Just look at the federal government.


Apr 01

Colorado Lawmakers Scramble to Keep Millions in Marijuana Taxes

Robert Grandt worked in the grow room at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver last month. Hefty taxes on recreational marijuana have generated millions in state revenue. Credit RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post, via Getty Images

A year after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, millions of tax dollars are rolling in, dedicated to funding school construction, marijuana education campaigns and armies of marijuana inspectors and regulators. But a legal snarl may force the state to hand that money back to marijuana consumers, growers and the public — and lawmakers do not want to.

The problem is a strict anti-spending provision in the state Constitution that touches every corner of public life, like school funding, state health care, local libraries and road repairs. Technical tripwires in that voter-approved provision, known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, may require Colorado to refund nearly $60 million in marijuana taxes.

Continue reading

Mar 31

District’s reasonable request (to avoid TABOR)

Chieftain editorial

Published: March 30, 2015;

THE FOUNTAIN Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has a request.

The district last week asked Pueblo County commissioners and Colorado Springs Utilities to amend the 1041 permit that both entities signed giving the utilities permission to build the Southern Delivery System. The district wants the commissioners and utilities to change the wording of the permit so that some $50 million in funds would be paid into an enterprise fund rather than directly to the Fountain Creek district.

When Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo County reached the terms of the permit for SDS, they agreed that Colorado Springs Utilities and its El Paso County-based partners would spend $50 million for flood mitigation work on Fountain Creek. The permit also requires the money to be used to significantly benefit Pueblo County, which to us means protecting it from raging floodwaters and damage from upstream.

The funds will be paid to the Fountain Creek district, but the district was at risk of losing some dollars if they were to be paid into the general fund. That is because it would have run awry of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

TABOR is the voter-approved constitutional amendment that sets caps on how much a government’s spending may grow, year over year. And Larry Small, the executive director of the Fountain Creek district, projected that the $50 million would exceed the limit.

So the district is sagely endeavoring to circumnavigate the caps by setting up an enterprise fund. This is a common and thoughtful solution to the district’s financial dilemma, and it is into this fund that the district is asking Pueblo County and the utilities to agree to direct the $50 million in funding. Continue reading

Mar 28

TABOR refund likely to go to voters

By Marianne Goodland

The Colorado Statesman

Budget writers this week finished their work on the annual state budget and turned their attention to what to do about a $58 million projected TABOR refund.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, took the lead on coming up with a proposal for the Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday.

The $58 million refund was triggered by tax revenue received by the state through excise and sales taxes on marijuana, and which pushed the state over its allowable TABOR revenue cap.

The $58 million is made up of two different funds: $27.7 million from marijuana taxes, and $30.3 million the JBC had to take from general funds to cover expenditures already made on certain marijuana programs like prevention and education. Steadman explained Wednesday that the $30.3 million was spent before the state (and JBC) knew they would have a TABOR refund situation. So they had to replace that money with general fund dollars.

Steadman’s proposal won’t go into final drafts until after the General Assembly finishes work on the Long Appropriations Bill.

The major part of the proposal is a referred measure to the voters for this November, asking if the state can keep the money. Steadman proposed that $40 million of the total go to BEST, the school construction fund that was to be covered with marijuana revenues.

Steadman explained that to date, only about $25 million has gone to that fund, although in both Amendment 64 and Proposition AA (passed by voters in 2013) the state pledged at least $40 million to public school capital construction. Tax revenues from marijuana haven’t lived up to what was billed; Prop AA asked voters to allow up to a cap of $70 million per year. However, the most recent revenue forecast from Legislative Council economists explained that the amount of the refund would be capped at the total amount of taxes collected.

Continue reading