Last Monday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled the state’s $26.8 billion proposed budget for next fiscal year. The budget includes $167.2 million in tax rebates for Colorado taxpayers, including $30.5 million in rebates due to total state revenue that was higher than predicted. Under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) the state must either refund the excess amount above the estimate,or add a measure to a future ballot asking the voters to let the state keep and spend the surplus.
The rebates are mandated by TABOR, because the revenue from marijuana sales is different than projections included in the election book for the 2013 Proposition AA. Under TABOR, since the estimate was off, the state has to either refund the excess cash or go to voters to ask if the state can keep it.
The budget proposal was announced one day before the Nov. 4 election that gave Hickenlooper another term. The spending plan includes a 7 percent increase from the current year’s budget, representing $1.7 billion in new spending of state and federal money. $908 million in state spending includes $107 million in additional funds for higher education, $103 million for road projects and a 2 percent pay hike for many state employees.
Colorado’s economy is improving, but much of the new money is due to tax collections exceeding the state’s revenue cap, triggering rebates under TABOR for the first time in 15 years. The provision requires refunds if the revenue is greater than the rate of population growth and inflation. Unless, that is, the voters decide to return the money.
Hickenlooper’s budget directs $167.2 million of the TABOR rebate for fiscal year 2015-16 toward a tax credit for low income workers, along with sales tax refunds. He did not address exactly how to rebate the $30.5 million portion for recreational pot taxes, that decision being left to state lawmakers.
The rebate issue became a campaign issue last month when the governor was noncommittal on whether he would endorse a tax rebate, or if he would ask voters for permission to spend it. At a gubernatorial debate Oct. 24 he did commit to a rebate.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee Sen. Pat Steadman said the overage is not happening because the taxes are exceeding the estimates, but rather because the economy is growing. Hickenlooper stated that “Colorado’s economic activity continues to outperform the national expansion,” and said looking ahead, the most likely scenario is for that momentum to continue.
Lawmakers have the option to lower excise and sales tax rates on recreational pot to bring the revenue in line with projections, but that would most likely impact $40 in annual excise tax revenue that has been allocated to school construction. Rep. Cheri Gerou, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, said lowering the sales tax rate would mean the state could not take care of K-12 education under BEST, the Building Excellent Schools Today program.
So much of the marijuana revenue is allocated for school construction and reimbursing counties for regulation expenses that it is possible that the cannabis refund would have to come out of the state’s general fund. It is uncertain how the pot tax rebate will be handled, whether it will go to all Colorado taxpayers or only to those who bought recreational marijuana. Gerou said that despite the higher-than-projected revenue, legalized recreational marijuana could actually cost the state money in this first year.
By Beth A. Balen
Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/11/colorado-residents-looking-at-pot-tax-rebate/#fgIF8cuuEo3AYXHk.99
Friends of freedom,
As the TABOR Committee approaches its annual business meeting on Saturday, November 15th, we thought to invite you to join our team.
If you are not currently engaged in an effort to advance liberty, please consider that you could make a difference with one to two hours per week of dedicated volunteering. You likely would benefit too, perhaps building a resume’, gaining insights unavailable from the sidelines, and fulfilling your interest for successful activism and leadership.
The TABOR Committee and its sister organization, the TABOR Foundation, have been punching far above our weight, including initiating lawsuits against the Bridge Enterprise scheme and against the new RTD and Scientific and Cultural Facilities District taxes. We filed an amicus brief in the Lobato lawsuit and acted in the federal lawsuit (Kerr vs. Hickenlooper) as the lead amicus in alliance with the NFIB’s national office legal team – the same outfit that filed the lawsuit against ObamaCare which ended with the Roberts’ decision. (The Kerr lawsuit avers TABOR unconstitutional under the US constitution). We also have taken tangential roles in the Aspen bag fee lawsuit and the lawsuit pertaining to the TABOR vote on the Gaylord Convention Center. Our other ongoing volunteer work includes
– development of histories of TABOR campaigns leading to passage,
– producing a TABOR 101 introductory video,
– research and authoring a legal history of the various TABOR decisions over the decades,
– providing articles to the media,
– running a web site,
– presenting a break-out session at the Western Conservative Summit (completed – 2014).
We would like to build on that. A deeper bench is needed, with more interested people involved so that languishing projects move forward.
My request of you is to become involved in policy & politics to preserve and advance the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. We need more help:
The committee that should be sending out a speaker’s bureau is moribund, because our Outreach Director’s professional life has taken a new direction. We need a small team with the skills and attitude to schedule the speakers bureau, organize the speakers’ training, coordinate feedback and lessons learned. If Bell Policy/Colorado Fiscal Institute soon launch a renewed attack on TABOR as expected, we will discover the libertarian/conservative movement is already behind.
We should recruit more support and organizing help in producing the TABOR 101 videos.
A major objective within our mission statement has gone unaddressed – the offer to support other states’ efforts to pass their own TABORs. We have not followed up adequately on expressions of recent interest from Kansas, Florida and Arizona. A leader with diplomacy skills and dogged determination would be a wonderful addition.
Citizens in Charge/Paul Jacob has planned to put national attention to TABOR during the coming spring with a series of different activities and a symposium. We don’t currently have the volunteer time available to support his plan, coordinate and collaborate with him, and to create successful events.
Your response and support will be greatly appreciated.
Three years ago, a group of primarily government plaintiffs sued in federal district court to void Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR allows the people, not just the legislature, to vote on most tax increases, most debt increases, and some spending hikes.
Plaintiff seeks enforcement of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights of the Colorado
Constitution (“TABOR”). TABOR requires a vote of the people
before the State or any local government may: create new debt, levy new taxes, increase tax
rates, or institute tax policy changes directly causing a net tax revenue gain. Id. Without a vote
of the people, the Colorado Bridge Enterprise has created new debt, levied new taxes, increased
tax rates, and instituted tax policy changes causing a net tax revenue gain to the Colorado
Department of Transportation and the Bridge Enterprise. By taking these actions without a vote
of the people, Defendants have violated the rights of Plaintiff’s members to vote on the
imposition of new taxes and debt, as guaranteed by TABOR. Plaintiff therefore seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief to abate and correct Defendants’ unconstitutional actions.
The TABOR Foundation alleges that CBE (Colorado Bridge Enterprise) violated TABOR by levying a tax on vehicle registration and by issuing revenue bonds without first seeking voter approval.
Pretty harsh to say it is deceptive, but the facts leave little doubt. First, the language calls the tax a “fee.” Why? If they called it a tax, the Colorado Constitution would require the ballot language to start out by saying “shall taxes be increased by $39,275,650 for 2016 and each year after for 20 years.” By cleverly calling the tax a fee, they can now start the language with “Are you in favor of funding emergency needs caused by flooding.” It was worded this way to enhance the ability to get it passed but it is nothing more than a way to trick you into believing that the money coming out of your pocket is a fee and not a tax. After all, it is on your property tax bill.
The sleight of hand continues. Rather than being honest about how much you’re going to pay each year, they broke down the amount per month. They could have said that it would cost the average homeowner $1,848 over the next 20 years. Instead, they broke down the amount by month – to $7.70 per month. Why not break it down to the day, hour or second? By the way, if you do the math, it is just over a penny per hour tax increase.
Question 1B also creates a government bureaucracy and then exempts it from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights provisions of the Colorado Constitution.
In other words, it creates a bureaucracy and then allows that bureaucracy to vote to extend the tax (that they call a fee) without going to the citizens for a vote of the people.
As Mayor Steve Bach, who strongly opposes 1B, stated, “the new $92.40 stormwater fee is about the same amount the average residential property owner now pays for all city services combined.” That’s right, you’ll pay as much property tax for stormwater as you do for police, fire, snow removal, street repair, parks, arts, etc. Imagine this new unaccountable bureaucracy getting as much property tax as the city of Colorado Springs, never having to face an election and having the ability to increase ?the tax at their whim and without voter approval.
If this tax increase of $785 million over 20 years weren’t offensive enough, the audacity of the language should convince any citizen to vote “no.” The drafters of the language trying to pull the wool over voters eyes by calling a tax a “fee”; reducing the yearly tax amount to make it appear smaller; and thumbing their nose at the voters by taking away the right to vote on tax increases make this as deceptive and misleading as any ballot language we’ve ever seen.
Our stormwater problem is real and it should be addressed, but Question 1B is not the answer. I hope you’ll join Mayor Bach, myself and many other community leaders in voting “no.”
Jeff Crank is a talk show host on AM 740 KVOR and the president of Aegis Strategic, LLC.
By Lynn Bartels
Udall made his position known Tuesday night in The Denver Post Senate debate where he and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner squared off.
One of the yes/no questions the pair was asked was about the 1992 voter-approved ballot measure that controls taxation and spending in Colorado. Should it be changed or altered?
Gardner said “no,” a stance adopted by many conservative Republicans over the years. Udall also said “no.”
“You’re kidding,” said former lawmaker Norma Anderson, a Lakewood Republican who is part of a bipartisan group of current and former state legislators and local officials challenging the constitutionality of TABOR in federal court.
“I’ll be damned.”
The suit alleges that TABOR, which prohibits the legislature from raising taxes without a vote of the people, limits the General Assembly’s power in violation of the U.S. Constitution guarantee that states have a “republican” government, in which the authority to govern is given to elected officials. The plaintiffs argue in court filings that TABOR has caused “a slow, inexorable slide into fiscal dysfunction” in Colorado.
Gardner called out Udall on his TABOR answer.
“I find it curious that Sen. Udall supports TABOR when he actually has supported tax increase after tax increase at the state level,” he said, during the debate.