Apr 01

Against uncertain backdrop, the tax overhaul backed by Colorado’s governor and state lawmakers limps ahead

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis greets the crowd as he walks to the podium to deliver his second State of the State address at the state Capitol on Jan. 9, 2020 in Denver. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis announced a task force in January to study the state’s tax breaks, building on the General Assembly’s efforts, but it may stall

After years of groundwork, 2020 was supposed to be the time for Colorado tax reform.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis kicked off his second year in office by doubling down on his pledge to eliminate special interest tax breaks to fund broad tax cuts. A legislative study group came into the session with an agenda of its own. And the state auditor’s office in January released a damning evaluation of one of the state’s most expansive — and controversial — tax breaks, the Colorado enterprise zone program.

Two months later, the tax overhaul effort is suddenly in limbo, like most everything else. The coronavirus has uprooted the legislative session, halting deliberations indefinitely. And even if lawmakers return to their duties, it’s not clear that a tax code rewrite will be a priority when the legislature reboots.

“Right now, nobody knows what’s going to happen,” said Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, the Commerce City Democrat who chaired the interim study committee.

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Mar 19

Explore the Colorado State Budget

 

Michael Fields@MichaelCLFields

Here’s a good tool to better understand our state budget. It’s much more accessible than what’s been previously available from the state.

KC Becker@kcbecker
If you’re looking for something to read while #socialdistancing, we’ve launched a tool to help you understand the Colorado Budget! Find simple explanations on where revenue comes from, how taxes are spent, TABOR, school financing, and much more!

To see where the money comes in and goes out in Colorado’s state budget, click (HERE):

 

Mar 12

Paid leave, petitions ballot measures land in state Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court In Denver
The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in downtown Denver, home of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Five additional challenges to proposed ballot initiatives went to the Colorado Supreme Court this week, as opponents seek to block measures pertaining to paid leave, tax policy and the petitioning process from the November statewide ballot.

Kelly Brough, the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, filed four of the challenges. She wrote in a court petition that she believed Initiative 245, which would create a right to ballot initiative at virtually every level of state and local government, had a misleading ballot title because it omitted descriptions of several key features from the complex measure.

Specifically, she argued that the title should inform voters of a reduction in signatures required to put an initiative on the ballot, of newly-assigned jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to hear initiative protests and of prohibitions on legislation from the General Assembly on topics that voters previously rejected through referendum.

The three-member Title Board sets the ballot titles for voters if they determine that an initiative constitutes a single subject. The title must include the central components of the proposal, but also be brief.

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Mar 04

Title Board to take on marijuana repeal, enterprises in ballot measure hearing

Title Board rehearing on 2/19/20
Title Board members David Powell (left) and Theresa Conley listen to an argument during the board’s meeting of Feb. 19, 2020.

The Colorado Initiative Title Setting Review Board on Wednesday will consider whether to set ballot titles for 10 proposed initiatives, and will weigh challenges to 16 measures previously given clearance.

In the current period for measures eligible for the November 2020 ballot, the Title Board has seen a flood of proposals from interest groups and individuals pushing through minor variations of the same initiative. Their strategy serves to guard against challenges and to have time to consider which single measure to ultimately pursue.

Wednesday’s scheduled proposals pertain to tobacco and nicotine taxes, state enterprises and repeal of recreational marijuana.

Voter Approval Requirement for Creation of Certain Fee-Based Enterprises (Initiatives 273-275): These proposals would require statewide voter approval for the creation of new enterprises that are projected to meet certain revenue thresholds in the first three to five years, ranging from $50 million to $100 million. Enterprises are self-supporting, government-owned businesses that have bonding authority and are exempt from the requirements of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The designated representatives are Michael Fields of Parker and Lindsey Singer of Highlands Ranch.

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Feb 14

Federal Spending Is Out Of Control, But State Lawmakers Are Introducing Reforms To Rein In The Growth Of Government

Americans are frequently told – by members of the media, candidates, and others – that political division is heightened in this consequential election year. Members of Congress, however, have reached bipartisan agreement that the federal government should spend more money than it brings in, even when the economy is growing and unemployment is low. Fiscal profligacy carries the day in Washington, yet lawmakers in state capitals are taking action to ensure that state spending and the size of government grows at a sustainable clip.

A member of the Wyoming Legislature, Representative Chuck Gray (R), introduced a joint resolution last week that seeks to limit the growth of the state budget and require voter consent for the approval of future tax increases. House Joint Resolution 2, introduced by Representative Gray on February 7, would amend the state constitution to include a “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” that would do two things: limit state spending to the rate of population growth plus inflation, and require all state tax hikes receive voter approval.

Representative Gray’s bill is inspired by Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Like the TABOR measure now pending in the Wyoming statehouse, Colorado’s TABOR, which has been the law since it was approved by Colorado voters in 1992, requires that all state tax hikes receive approval from Colorado voters. Colorado’s TABOR also caps the increase in state spending at the rate of population growth plus inflation.

Colorado’s TABOR is the reason why Democrats who control the Colorado Legislature and would like to impose a host of tax increases are unable to do so. In November of 2019, Colorado voters affirmed their support for TABOR by rejecting Proposition CC, a measure referred to the ballot by legislative Democrats that would’ve gutted TABOR by ending the taxpayer refunds due in accordance with it.

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Jan 23

Bipartisan bill proposes fee-based hazard mitigation enterprise; to fall outside TABOR revenue limits

Bipartisan bill proposes fee-based hazard mitigation enterprise; to fall outside TABOR revenue limits

January 22, 2020 By Scott Weiser


Hazard mitigation controlled burn
Courtesy of W. Perry Conway

DENVER–House members Matt Soper, R-Grand Junction and Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County are proposing to create a new state-owned hazard mitigation enterprise that would collect a 0.05% fee on certain policies from insurance companies.

The enterprise would in part “assist entities that apply for federal grants that require matching funds and are dedicated to assisting in the implementation of pre-disaster hazard mitigation measures.”

Other tasks include “public education on the importance of insurance in buying down risk and for the continuity of business operations, and provide local governments technical information and support on natural hazard mitigation through land use and building codes.”

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Jan 08

IN RESPONSE | Pols trample on TABOR; let’s demand our petition rights

Douglas Bruce

Re: “Colorado must draw a line between ‘tax’ and ‘fee,’ ” Jan. 6.

As TABOR’s author, I fought many traps our foes set for us. We went down their rabbit trail of theoretical debates … twice.

The 1988 TABOR covered “fees” that yearly increase above inflation. Foes used examples like library card fees increasing 10%, which may be a quarter. “We can’t vote all the time” on trivial sums.

The 1990 fight allowed increases rounded up to the next dollar. Same result. We can’t set a limit — say, $50 million — on a fee increase; they will simply increase 50 fees $40 million each. They will also increase licenses, permits, etc.

In 1992, we switched “fee v. tax ” details for revenue spending limits. The Establishment took OUR bait. The issue was our right to vote at all, and we won. Set the agenda and frame the issue, and you win the debate.

Our foes then violated TABOR for 28 years, by saying road and bridge “fees” are for “enterprises,” though they clearly violate the definition. Ditto hospital provider fees, the Dirty Dozen in 2009, and dozens more.

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Jan 02

Income tax rates decreasing in Colorado in 2020 as TABOR Refunds kick in


DENVER — It’s official. Coloradans will be giving less to Colorado state government in 2020.

Governor Polis made the announcement official in an oped this morning with The Colorado Sun. 

Income tax rates will be decreasing from a flat 4.63% to 4.5%.

The decrease was mandated by the Colorado State Constitution and the Taxpayer Bills of Rights (TABOR) which limits how much government can grow each year.

Passed in 1992, this is the first year TABOR has triggered cuts. As opposed to sending checks to taxpayers, income tax rates will be cut instead.

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