Apr 03

Guest Commentary: Double Down and Defend TABOR

Dustin ZvonekBy 

There’s good news and bad news for Coloradans as the annual state budget battle looms.

The good news, if you tend to focus on the revenue side of the ledger, is that the state is relatively flush with cash at the moment.

This helps explain the extra spring in the step one notices in legislators, lobbyists and special interests swarming the capitol, as they imagine all the wonderful things they can do with that windfall.

But this can also be bad news if you tend (as I do) to take the taxpayer’s point of view, since the resulting feeding frenzy could leave little thought to socking-away savings or returning a dividend to taxpayers as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

You must remember TABOR, approved by voters back in the early 1990s? It’s been an invaluable ally to the state’s bill-payers ever since, which also makes it the bane of politicians and spending interests, who deeply resent the restraints it imposes on their ability to tax and spend at will.

Every budget season the debate stirs anew over whether TABOR has been good or bad for the state.  And this year that debate has taken on a new urgency for a number of reasons. Continue reading

Mar 31

Lawsuit against TABOR

from the April edition of the Naysayer newsletter from historian, author, and social critic Phil Goodstein.
Note a different location, La Casa de Manuel at 3158 Larimer, for the Naysayers’ meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 4.

The Democrats’ thorough contempt of voters and popular democ­racy is endless. It has surfaced again in the lawsuit filed by party lawmakers against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The citizenry adopted this amendment to the state constitution in 1992, partially in reaction to the extravagant handouts and giveaways of the government to private businesses and the scam of Denver International Airport.
Ever since its passage, the governing class has raged against it. This refers to the political elite. Far from seeing themselves as representa­tives of the public, designed to get the government to work for everyday people, they are essentially representatives of the government who try to impose the dictates of the bureaucracy on the populace. They particularly call for ever greater pay for public officials, seeing them­selves as the enlightened guardians of civilization while they surround public buildings with goons to defend the government from the popu­lace. Such ideologues rail against TABOR precisely beside it is designed to check the usual plunder of officeholders with their give­aways to politically well-connected donors.
While endlessly attacking TABOR, the governing class has never tried to repeal it through an open and honest referendum. Rather, as is its wont, it has employed stealth. Its latest scheme is a federal lawsuit, claiming the act is unconstitutional because it ties the hands of lawmak­ers in deciding how much they can tax the populace. In other words, rather than having the courts respect the decision of the electorate, the governing class wants sweeping judicial intervention whereby ap­pointed jurists, with no public accountability, will allow it to have its way despite the mandate of the citizenry. Precisely such policies and arrogance are what fuel the massive alienation of the citizenry from the government. For so illustrating their elitism and contempt for every­body except their cherished government, those pushing the TABOR suit are an Associate Naysayer of the Month.

http://denverdirect.blogspot.com/2014/03/lawsuit-against-tabor.html

Mar 22

A fee or a tax? Guarding TABOR against lawsuits

By Brian Vande Krol 

Guest Commentary

TABOR author Douglas Bruce collects political signs to be placed in high traffic areas of Colorado Springs rebuffing efforts against Referendum C, amending

TABOR author Douglas Bruce collects political signs to be placed in high traffic areas of Colorado Springs rebuffing efforts against Referendum C, amending TABOR, in November 2005. (Chuck Bigger, Special to The Denver Post)

 

 

To fee, or not to fee. That is the question.

Whether ’tis Nobler in the wallet to suffer

The Fees and Enterprises of outrageous Governance,

Or to file suits against CBE,

And by opposing end them?

A Colorado organization has filed an appeal to overturn a Denver District Court finding about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). We believe the trial court erred in finding that Colorado’s Bridge Enterprise (CBE) conforms to TABOR.

In 2010, the legislature created the CBE to repair and maintain bridges. The CBE was called an “enterprise” so it could issue debt without a vote of the people, as is otherwise required by TABOR. The CBE already has issued $300 million in debt and plans more (up to $1 billion).

An enterprise is a government-owned, self-supporting business, which is exempt from TABOR restrictions. The legislature also authorized the CBE to impose a new charge on vehicle registrations. Known as the bridge safety surcharge, it was designated for repair and maintenance of state-owned bridges. But the CBE had a problem. Because the charge is not a fee for service, it functioned like a tax, which requires a vote of the people.

Disinclined to allow Colorado’s constitution to stand in the way, the CBE called it a fee and hoped the label alone would be enough to avoid a tax election.

In 2012, the TABOR Foundation sued to reverse the tax and stop the issuance of more debt, arguing that the fee is actually a tax, and that the CBE is not a qualified enterprise and cannot issue debt without a vote of the citizens of Colorado. Continue reading

Mar 18

Gerou: TABOR having ‘insidious’ effect on Colorado

More “tax and spend” talk from envious Democrats about TABOR

by 

DENVER — For years Democrats have been ranting and raving about Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires voters to approve all tax hikes and keeps state spending from rising beyond a certain level.

On Tuesday, during a Joint Budget Committee briefing on the state’s quarterly revenue forecast, a Republican lawmaker joined them.

“I have to tell you, quite honestly, the more I learn about TABOR, particularly what it did with the floods in our counties, the less and less I like TABOR, and the more insidious I think it has been to state government,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee and is in her final year at the legislature.

Last year, local communities found that TABOR limits on spending and revenues prevented them from freeing up funds to help citizens recover from September’s catastrophic floods.

“I’ll have an effigy burned in my front yard when I get home, but it’s the honest to goodness truth,” Gerou said. “It’s not been good.” Continue reading

Mar 17

The Court of Appeals’ Anti-TABOR Decision

The Court of Appeals’ Anti-TABOR Decision

March 17, 2014 by Rob Natelson

041410 Rob Natelson-2The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuitrecently refused to dismiss the suit by various public sector interests to invalidate Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The plaintiffs claim that TABOR violates Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. That provision is called the Guarantee Clause because it guarantees that the states will have republican forms of government.

However, the Court of Appeals addressed only standing and justiciability issues, and allowed further hearings on the Guarantee Clause issue.

The Guarantee Clause was designed to prevent states from becoming monarchies, dictatorships, or anarchies. It is totally inapplicable to TABOR,which simply requires that certain conditions—such as popular votes or legislative supermajorities—be met before the legislature can make designated increases in taxes, spending and debt. Although it is common in Colorado to claim TABOR is “unique,”  in fact, it is only one of the stronger fiscal-restraint provisions that appear in the constitutions of 49 states. (The exception is Vermont.)

Restraints of this kind are called “TELs”—tax and expenditure limitations. Even the U.S. Constitution imposes such restraints on Congress. For example, it requires direct taxes, other than the income tax, to be apportioned among states by population, and it imposes a flat ban against taxes on exports. Continue reading

Mar 15

Their Power

 

Paul Jacobs pictureTheir Power

Boo hoo.

Thirty-three hifalutin members of Colorado’s political elite — state legislators, former legislators, board of education officials, city and county politicians, and assorted insiders — are whining as plaintiffs in what’s called a federal case.

Why? They lost an election … in 1992! Now, as the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals put it, “Plaintiffs claim that they have been deprived of their power over taxation and revenue.”

Over 22 years ago, Coloradans petitioned the Taxpayer Bill of Rights onto the ballot and voters passed it. Known as TABOR, the constitutional amendment limits the growth of government spending, unless voters approve higher spending levels. It also requires voter approval for tax increases, except in an emergency. The politicians objected at the time, but have since lacked both the courage and the democratic sensibility to take the issue back to the people.All this by routine.

Instead, they’re suing to overturn the result. Continue reading