Bridge Enterprise Fund trial update

Friends of TABOR,

Yesterday (Monday), the trial began on the lawsuit to prove the Bridge Enterprise Fund is unconstitutional because it ignores the rules laid out in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  You, as supporters and contributors, are bringing the lawsuit through our organization, the TABOR Foundation.  We are represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, and that legal firm’s attorney who is arguing the case is Jim Manley.

For a refresher on the issues, see , from A Citizen’s Budget for 2013 published by the Independence Institute.

Five witnesses; two heroes.

Plaintiffs (us) get to go first.  One central fiction to keep in mind is the scheme declares that as you drive over certain bridges on the highway system, you are paying tolls to do so; tolls which are collected through a “safety surcharge.” The first two witnesses were Ms. Chris Sammons and Willie Wharton who both explained that they had to register vehicles and therefore pay the bridge surcharge “fee,” although those specifically identified vehicles never cross a single bridge.  They did you proud, providing testimony that was calm, convincing, certain, occasionally humorous, and very credible.  To me, they are my newest heroes.  Both took a day off, drove in from Grand County (think, from beyond the western border of Rocky Mountain National Park), leaving very early to get to Denver on time.  Willie had to spend one of his vacation days to do so, and the trial managed to fall during the very busiest time of his professional year.  Chris had to put aside the demands of her ranch and small businesses, and miss a school function for one of her two teenagers.  These two deserve our special thanks.

Mr. Manley also called as witnesses the chief financial officer of the Colorado Department of Transportation (and “coincidentally” the chief financial officer of the Bridge Enterprise Fund) and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation (and “coincidentally” of the Bridge Enterprise Fund).  They had to answer his questions about how the supposedly separate entities operate and coordinate, and supply information about funding issues.

The final of the five witnesses did not conclude his testimony before business wrapped up yesterday, and that is where the trial was to continue from this morning.  Paul Wingard was there to prove expert information about the values of the bridges.  Any TABOR enterprise is limited to taxpayer subsidy of 10 percent of annual income.  The calculated limit in this case is met only because most  bridges were transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Bridge Enterprise at a value of zero.  Mr. Wingard brings a rare combination of experience and talents to the discussion.  He is a professional engineer who has consulted in that profession, is a licensed contractor who built bridges, served as a senior administrator for a road and bridge department of a county government in Florida, and has participated in arm’s-length transfers of tolled bridges and a highway.  We found him through Reason Foundation’s Bob Poole.  Paul submitted a report about the values of the Colorado bridges being transferred.

More as there is more to report ………

Penn Pfiffner

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