Jul 04

Guest Commentary: Supreme Court’s order great for TABOR

By Rob Natelson

Posted:   07/03/2015 

Activist Douglas Bruce, author of TABOR and a constant proponent for cutting taxes, explained his latest proposal for cutting taxes to reporters and

Activist Douglas Bruce, author of TABOR and a constant proponent for cutting taxes, explained his latest proposal for cutting taxes to reporters and journalists at the state Capitol in November 1999. (Denver Post file photo)

 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent order in the case against Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a devastating blow to those seeking to overturn that part of the state constitution. The Supreme Court’s order amounts to a polite directive to the lower court to dismiss the suit.

Colorado voters approved TABOR in 1992. It offers several protections for Colorado’s financial health. It allows voter review when legislative bodies pass increases in taxes or debt, or adopt unusually high increases in spending. Under TABOR, the state legislature and local councils continue to initiate all financial measures, but the people are allowed to review some of them.

Four years ago, 34 plaintiffs, including a handful of state lawmakers, sued in federal court to have TABOR declared void. They argued that allowing the people to` check the legislature’s financial powers violated the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That’s the section that says that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_28424187/guest-commentary-supreme-courts-order-great-tabor

Jul 03

Penn Pfiffner Discusses TABOR on Saturday, July 11th

Saturday, July 11th, Penn Pfiffner of The TABOR Foundation discusses what TABOR is, how it works, and why Colorado is unique because of it to the North Suburban Republican Forum (NSRF).

Admission is $3 for NSRF members and $5 for non-members.

Coffee, bottled water, orange juice, fruit, and pastries is included.

 
They meet at Horan & McConaty’s Community Room, 9998 Grant St in Thornton from 9:00am-11:00am. Doors open at 8:30am.
 

Horan & McConaty google map

Jul 01

Supreme Court sends TABOR lawsuit back to appeals court

Supreme Court sends TABOR lawsuit back to appeals court

Arizona redistricting case to play role

(Denver Post file)

WASHINGTON — A years-long battle over a Colorado tax law went into another period of overtime on Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court sent the fight back to a lower court.

In the short-term, the decision means Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, is in little danger of going away.

But the law’s long-term prospects are less clear, as is its strict requirement that Colorado officials get permission from state voters whenever they want to raise taxes.

The Supreme Court “sort of kicked the can down the road” when it returned the case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, said Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, one of several outside groups that filed briefs last year in support of TABOR.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

 

http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_28407150/supreme-court-sends-tabor-lawsuit-back-appeals-court

 

Jun 30

Hospital Provider Lawsuit

TABOR Committee members and TABOR friends,

The final of three lawsuit developments:

Last Friday, the TABOR Foundation filed a new lawsuit.  The legal firm representing us is Mountain States Legal Foundation.

The legislature responded in 2009 to an incentive offered by the federal government.  The Medicaid program prompted states to impose a new tax (the word the Medicaid program uses).  Revenues received would be matched and the funds made available to pay (some) hospitals for care of indigent people who otherwise would leave the hospitals uncompensated.  As the legislation was moving forward, a memo was generated at the Capitol warning legislators that if the charges were used ONLY for the hospital match, they could qualify as a fee (I would dispute that, but that’s not the issue at hand).  Legislators were warned that if the revenues were used instead for general fund purposes, the charge would definitely be a tax and subject to a TABOR vote.

In three different fiscal years, the legislature diverted some portion of those funds for general appropriations.  Yet, no TABOR prior voter approval was ever obtained, in violation of the TABOR provision in the Colorado Constitution.

The TABOR Committee last fall asked the Hickenlooper administration to address the breach and to negotiate a solution in good faith.  The first meeting was put off until well after the legislative session started, and promises to raise the issue within the Governor’s Council and communicate back were not fulfilled.  Rather, Governor Hickenlooper went public with a scheme to move the whole thing off budget, as if the tax was handled by a government business!

Penn R. Pfiffner

Chairman, TABOR Committee

Jun 30

Kerr vs. Hickenlooper update

TABOR Committee members and TABOR friends,

This morning saw an important step in a case that threatens the very existence of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  The development should be good news for our side.

As a reminder – current and former members of the state legislature (and others) sued in federal court alleging that TABOR removes legislators’ ability to “govern effectively.”  The case to declare TABOR unconstitutional is defended by the Colorado Attorney General.  Although the Plaintiffs claim to target only TABOR, if their legal theory were to win, all restrictions on the powers of legislators that came into being through initiated ballot issues would be threatened.  The possible mischief by unguided, unlimited legislators would be essentially unbounded.  The TABOR Foundation was one group to file a “friend of the court” brief to support the defense of TABOR.  Very central to the current status is the Defendant’s argument that some issues may be decided only in the political realm; that interference by the judicial branch is constitutionally inappropriate.  Both a liberal trial judge and a liberal panel of judges in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals were ready to allow the federal court to hear the merits of the case.  Acting to protect TABOR, the Defendant filed a request to the US Supreme Court for it to rule on whether the case should proceed. Continue reading

Jun 30

TABOR Foundation vs Bridge Enterprise lawsuit

TABOR Committee members and TABOR friends,

We regret to inform you that the TABOR Foundation lost the Bridge Enterprise case.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the tax could still be designated a fee if it was likely the payer could use a bridge in the future.  The only step left to us in the judicial system was for the Colorado Supreme Court to recognize the fallacy of that conclusion and overturn the Appellate Court.  The Supreme Court selects the cases it will hear and yesterday declined to allow the case to proceed any further.

The TABOR Committee Board believed the case was eminently win-able.  The state government’s scheme was so obviously a subterfuge to get around TABOR; the structure and premises so blatantly dishonest that we could not foresee any judge allowing it to proceed.  The practical consequence of the loss is that the fiction will continue that you incur a toll when you cross a bridge and that you pay your tolls every year with your car registration tax.  The “Bridge Enterprise” will continue to operate as if it were a business, but do so inside the Colorado Department of Transportation.  It performs what is historically a government function, uses the Colorado Transportation Commission as its board of directors and the Department director as its executive director.  It will mean that the made-up entity can continue to move government revenues off-budget and eventually place Colorado citizens in debt for about $1 billion off-budget, without prior voter approval.  What a travesty.  Continue reading

Jun 25

U.S. Supreme Court set to report whether it will hear TABOR case

Colorado court watchers are waiting with baited breath for the nation’s highest court to say whether it will consider a case challenging the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t considering the merits of a 2011 lawsuit, brought by a group of current and former elected officials, including state Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. Instead, the court is expected to announce whether justices are granting certiorari and will hear the case or whether they’re sending it back to a lower court.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in May 2011. Attorneys for the State of Colorado filed a motion to dismiss at that time, claiming the plaintiffs lack standing to file the lawsuit and arguing that the case itself is a political question, which federal courts typically avoid.

The District Court denied the motion and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals then denied a request by the state for a rehearing, leaving the Supreme Court to decide.

“We’re not yet at the point where (the Supreme Court) could be asked the merits of the case,” said David Skaggs, an attorney for the group that filed the suit.

The court considered the Petition for Writ of Certiorari in conference on Jan. 9 but has not yet issued a decision on it, a delay Skaggs called unusual.

Typically, when the court considers what’s commonly known as a Cert Petition in conference, it announces whether the petition has been granted or denied within a week or two.

“I think it means they’re taking [the issues] seriously,” said David Kopel, an attorney with the Independence Institute, who wrote an amicus brief supporting the state’s arguments in the case.

If the court grants certiorari, then the case will be set for oral arguments during next year’s session, which begins on Oct. 5. If certiorari is denied, the case will return to U.S. District Court in Denver for a hearing on the merits of the lawsuit.

 

Continue reading

Jun 21

Colorado economic growth slows down a bit, but tax refunds still on the way

TABOR refunds

Despite a pullback in oil and gas industry jobs, Colorado’s economy is continuing to grow — enough so that state revenues this year will trigger tax refunds in 2016 for Colorado wage earners under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The forecast estimates that about $221 million will likely be returned to taxpayers on income tax returns filed for calendar year 2015.

Roughly $83.6 million in refunds will go to people qualifying for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and another $137.3 million will be earmarked for all wage earners in the form of a sales tax credit on 2015 returns.

The Colorado Legislative Council forecast projects that the state will finish the current fiscal year on June 30 with about $18.6 million above the state’s required reserve.

“This is the most significant contribution to the economic well-being of low- and moderate-income families in Colorado in decades,” said Ali Mickelson, director of legislative and tax policy for the Colorado Fiscal Institute, a public policy think tank that focuses on issues that primarily affect low and moderate income people.

“More than 350,000 Coloradans will be helped by the state Earned Income Tax Credit. It is truly a historic day.”

The CFI estimates that the average credit under the EITC in Colorado will be about $217 per family. The maximum income to receive the credit would be $53,267 for a family of three or more children, according to the institute.

The federal tax code has had an earned income credit for decades. It’s been popular with liberals and conservatives because it rewards people who are working and claim at least some income on their returns. Continue reading