Jan 21

Federal court hears arguments in ongoing TABOR lawsuit

A question of standing

By John Frank
The Denver Post

POSTED:   01/21/2016 11:03:15 AM MST

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard oral arguments Thursday on a key question in the long-running legal battle against Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

A three-judge panel must decide, once again, whether a coalition of TABOR critics — led by state Sen. Andy Kerr and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst — has standing to challenge the merits of the much-contested constitutional provision approved by voters in 1992. The case is Kerr v. Hickenlooper.

TABOR requires that voters approve all tax hikes — which the lawmakers argue infringes on their power and undermines the state’s republican form of government.

To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

Jan 21

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Johnson: Conservatives, beware of Building a Better Colorado’s spending agenda

Donald E.L. Johnson

Donald E.L. Johnson

Colorado conservatives who want to control spending and taxes in the state should keep a close eye on the bipartisan Building a Better Colorado.

Its mission is pretty clear to anyone who has attended one of its some 20 “summits” that have been held around the state and has read its handouts and website.

Building a Better Colorado is intent on making it easier for politicians to increase spending and raise taxes. That is, it wants to repeal TABOR), which has helped keep spending in check in Colorado since it was passed in the early 1990s.

Further, BABC wants to make it harder to amend the state constitution by requiring a “super majority” of somewhere between a 50 percent to 66 percent majority to amend the constitution. Today, it is as easy to amend the constitution as it is to pass a referendum that creates a new law or set of laws that can be changed by the General Assembly.


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Jan 20

Roberts: Colorado can’t balance its budget by ignoring its constitution

“My legislative duty includes necessarily upholding constitutional requirements.” – Senator Ellen Roberts

We’re past the ceremonial days of the 2016 legislature and the only tasks we must complete in a session, based on the state’s constitution, are to pass the budget and the school finance act. Although a short list, these two pieces of legislation require months of noodling, number-crunching and negotiations. This year will be no exception. The budget touches every essential — and many nonessential — governmental services, and will be the biggest challenge we face over the next 120 days.

In their opening speeches, Gov. John Hickenlooper and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, both Democrats, already assigned blame to the Republicans for budget battles brewing on the horizon, saying there’s only one path to reconciling the mess and that’s with their workaround on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Their speeches highlighted the word “compromise,” but in a way that suggested perhaps neither has read the book Getting to Yes. There’s an art to compromise, including listening and incorporating the input of others, something sorely missing here.

It’s important to note that the top 2016 challenge in all U.S. state legislatures is balancing their budgets. Unlike Colorado, more than a dozen states failed to meet their 2015 deadlines to balance their budget. So, while the spending limitations of TABOR and other constitutional requirements are hard to reconcile, it’s not TABOR causing the big squeeze, but, as experienced across the country, the very long lists of state spending that are exceeding available revenue. Continue reading

Jan 20

Guest Commentary: An unlawful swipe at TABOR on hospital provider “enterprise”

By Penn Pfiffner
Penn Pfiffner is a former Colorado legislator. He is chairman of the TABOR Committee.

Here’s a bad idea: hide a state government function off-budget and sock citizens with a big tax increase in the doing.

That’s what the Hickenlooper administration wants to do with its proposal to redefine the state’s hospital provider charge as an “enterprise.”

Colorado’s tax system is set up so that in a good economy, taxes are collected at a pace faster than growth in population and inflation. When government over-collects taxes, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) forces it to return the surplus to taxpayers.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of this story




Jan 20

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Court to hear arguments about whether TABOR is constitutional

Corey Hutchins
January 19, 2016

Lawyers on Thursday will argue their case before a federal judge about why they believe Colorado’s voter-initiated Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state Constitution is, well, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Since passed in the early ’90s, the complex law requires, among other things, that voters must approve of any tax increase. It also mandates governments to rebate money to taxpayers if the government takes in more revenue than expected. A Colorado Springs landlord and anti-tax folk hero named Douglas Bruce championed the amendment first in his home city, and then took it statewide in 1992. Since then it’s been the law of the land in Colorado, and has become a perennial political controversy. Continue reading

Jan 18

Mayors call for ‘de-Brucing’ Colorado at DBJ State of the Cities forum

Mayors from across the Denver metro on Tuesday railed against gridlock at both the state and federal levels while discussing local and regional solutions to problems such as affordable housing and transportation, and called for the “de-Brucing” of state finances in the way many municipalities that have done already.

Five metro mayors gathered at the Denver Business Journal’s annual State of the Cities event to field questions on topics ranging from education funding to construction defects laws and the effect it’s having on construction of mid-priced condominiums

5 Mayors don't like TABOR

State of the Cities 2016: Neil Westergaard, Denver Business Journal editor-in-chief,… more


Asked about proposed state-level measures including a $3.5 billion bonding effort and moving revenue from the state’s hospital provider fee to an enterprise fund, both with the goal of boosting funding for roads, mayors said that bigger, constitutional issues need to be addressed first.

“It has to be said. Before we address bonding, we need to de-Bruce. Period. And allow, without raising taxes, for the state of Colorado to take the revenue they receive and to begin to invest in important programs like transportation, roads and education,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

De-Brucing is a reference to tax activist Douglas Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment. TABOR placed limits on the amount of tax revenue that can be collected by governments in Colorado and mandates tax rebates in some cases when revenues exceed limits tied to population growth.

The term “de-Brucing” refers to ballot measures that allow governments to opt out of the revenue limits and keep amounts raised by existing tax rates. Tax rate increases have to be approved by voters under TABOR. Continue reading

Jan 16

Fight over TABOR expected in Denver this session

Eric Fink, Multimedia Journalist, eric.fink@krdo.com
POSTED: Jan 15, 2016 

TABOR fight looms as session gets underway

DENVER – In a tight budget year in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to take more than $200 million that’s set to go back to taxpayers under TABOR and put that money towards new programs for education and roads.  GOP leadership, however, argues that’s unconstitutional.

“Right now no one can say with a straight face that our budget rules are working for us,” Hickenlooper said Thursday in his State of the State address.

A Colorado Springs state senator  who chairs the senate education committee believes that plan only hurts Coloradans’ wallets.

“When we’re supposed to give several hundred million dollars back to citizens they want to move it out from TABOR so it doesn’t hit us up against that constitutional cap and how much money the government can take in, so they can keep more of people’s money,” Sen. Owen Hill said. “That’s a non-starter in an economy that continues to be sluggish, we continue to struggle with higher levels of unemployment than we should.”

Jan 16

Part 2: Important questions about TABOR and their answers

n a special article last week, experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle answered key questions about The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

TABOR 2016Through answers to four questions, experts introduced readers to the basics of the constitutional amendment, how it factors into the state budget, how enterprise funds can move around TABOR and what the tax law requires voters to approve.

The state’s unique tax law likely will become a point of conversation and contention during much of this year. Some in government see TABOR as too restrictive a way to govern Colorado’s budget and others argue it keeps excessive spending in check.

Officials have cited TABOR as a reason for proposed cuts in the next state budget, a state group is looking to see if people would vote to change parts of the constitutional amendment and state Democratic lawmakers want to try and work around parts of the tax law with enterprise funds.

Some parts of TABOR aren’t as unique to Colorado as they may sound. To address that idea and more, here is the second of two articles — researched with politicians and experts on both sides of the political spectrum — offering some important questions about TABOR and their answers:

How many other states have TABOR, or tax codes with TABOR-like elements? Continue reading