Jun 16

Colorado Legislature gives final approval to a charitable bingo and raffles amendment, cigarette tax increase measure

FILE - Cigarettes

On June 15, the Colorado State Legislature sent two measures to the November 2020 ballot.

One measure would amend the state constitution to require charitable organizations to have existed for three years before obtaining a charitable gaming license instead of the current constitutional requirement of five years. The amendment would allow charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid more than the minimum wage. Currently, the constitution requires those who operate charitable gaming activities to be a member of the organization working as an unpaid volunteer.

The other measure would increase cigarette taxes and create a new tax on nicotine products such as e-cigarettes. It would dedicate revenues to various health and education programs. The measure requires voter approval under TABOR since it would increase state revenue.

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Jun 11

Initiative backers want voter approval for big state fees; new enterprise bill cited as reason needed

Initiative backers want voter approval for big state fees; new enterprise bill cited as reason needed

TABOR is an amendment to the state Constitution requiring, among other things, that new or increased taxes be approved by voters.

The executive director of Colorado Rising State Action, Michael Fields, said Initiative 295, which would go into state statute, is more important now than ever as the state grapples with $3.3 billion in budget cuts and looks to find new sources of revenues.

Senate Bill 20-215 is “a perfect example of them trying to go around TABOR to raise revenue by calling them fees,” Fields said. “Clearly, this is the move they are going to make, raising taxes by calling them fees.”

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Jun 11

Mahaney: Have taxes been raised?

To quote the Pueblo West district manager as printed in the June 4, 2020 article headed “So Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go?” In sub heading No. 4, the spin starts as “We are continuing to provide the same services as when Pueblo West originated and that is without a mill levy increase since 1971, which doesn’t allow for the cost of inflation of goods and services since 1971.

My “old daddy” once told me, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure. The two points the quote does not explain is that first property taxes have gone up. As the Pueblo County assessor reassess the value of a home the same mill levy generates a higher tax bill. Ask anyone if their property tax bill has gone up in the last two years. Property values tend to track with inflation.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) was made into law to restrain local government from expanding without taxpayer approval.

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Jun 11

Editorial; Legislature plans to bury us in taxes

Never has one simple fact been so clear. Businesses fund everything. When shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, the state government went from a nearly $1 billion revenue surplus to a $3 billion shortfall. Shuttered businesses don’t collect sales taxes, and their out-of-work employees don’t pay state income taxes.

Given the sorry state of our economy and state budget, business recovery should be the Legislature’s top priority. To help them recover and survive, lawmakers should reduce the burden of overhead. Give these struggling patients oxygen and support; bill them for it later.

Instead of helping businesses recover and survive, legislators want more money from them immediately. Toward that self-destructive end, Democrats introduced House Bill 1420 on Monday and passed it out of committee Tuesday with the session ending this week.

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May 28

TABOR Emergency Taxes at the State level

TABOR Emergency Taxes at the State level

Emergency taxes are a contingency written into the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  In response to the decline in revenues due to the pandemic economic shutdown, activists on the Left are urging new and higher taxes using the emergency taxes clause.  Unfortunately, the General Assembly has put itself into an impossible situation that will prevent the imposition of any State emergency taxes.  Legislators’ dishonest dealings in good times removes this option today. Continue reading

May 28

From An Editorial On May 5, 2019: State Could Go Off A Fiscal Cliff

State could go off a fiscal cliff

By: Barry W Poulson
May 5, 2019

Colorado has created a fiscal cliff; the state is woefully unprepared for the revenue shortfall that will accompany the next recession. Citizens might be surprised to learn that the state has been pursuing imprudent policies that will result in a fiscal crisis when the next recession hits. It is important to understand how the fiscal cliff was created and what we can do about it.

Over the past two decades, Colorado has weakened the fiscal constraints imposed by the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights. TABOR limits the rate of growth in state spending to the sum of inflation plus population growth, regardless of the amount of revenue the state takes in.

But most state revenue is exempt from the TABOR limit. The exempt funds include the revenue from enterprises and the fees collected by government agencies, which have grown rapidly over this period. As a result, over the past decade TABOR has not constrained the growth in spending, and this year the state will spend virtually every dollar of revenue it takes in.

The fiscal cliff is also linked to a rapid growth in debt and unfunded liabilities. While limits are imposed on general obligation debt, there are no limits on the issuance of revenue bonds. These are bonds with a dedicated stream of revenue used to pay off the bonds over time. As state enterprises have grown they have saddled the state with greater debt burdens.

Increasing debt is also incurred in the form of unfunded liabilities. Despite the recent reforms enacted in the Public Employees Retirement Association, unfunded liabilities continue to increase. The official estimate of these unfunded liabilities is $32 billion; but with realistic assumptions regarding rates returns on assets, the actual unfunded liabilities are estimated to be in excess of $100 billion. Continue reading

May 26

TABOR and COVID 19: We’re All Gonna Pay

TABOR and COVID 19: We’re all gonna pay

Blog post by Christine Burtt
5/26/2020 – 4 minute read

Let’s face it.  You can’t shut down the economy, borrow trillions of dollars to subsidize households and businesses, and cause massive unemployment in the private sector without getting seriously upside down in tax revenues.

The Colorado state budget will be about $3.3B in the hole for FY2021, and that doesn’t include deficits in county and special district budgets.

If Legislatures over the years had honored the requirement of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to stash away an emergency fund, we’d have roughly $1B in cash right now.  Instead of a lockbox of cash, illiquid government buildings were determined to be assets counted toward the emergency fund. Anybody have cash to buy a government building?  But I digress….

In the Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature, raising taxes is the easy answer to a budget shortfall. The short-term exercise is to reconcile what is “essential” vs “nice to have.”

In reality, government mandated services like administering food stamps, running elections, law enforcement, infrastructure, and paying public employee retirement benefits will be protected. But other programs funded for ideological wish-lists may be delayed – until they can raise taxes.

The most likely ways to raise taxes include: Continue reading

May 18

Independence Institute Launches Tax Reduction Ballot Initiative

Independence Institute Launches Tax Reduction Ballot Initiative

Independence Institute Launches Tax Reduction Ballot Initiative

To “Energize our Economy” Independence Institute Launches Tax Reduction Ballot Initiative

May 18, 2020

Denver – Independence Institute, Colorado’s free-market think tank, announces its petition drive launch today of a ballot initiative that will reduce the flat Colorado state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%.

The signature gathering process for Initiative #306 will begin today.

The initiative, currently known as Initiative# 306, is supported by the issue committee Energize our Economy. The purpose of this ballot initiative is to get Colorado’s economy back to its former strength, by putting money back into the pockets of those who earned it.

This flat-rate tax cut will also offer voters an alternative to a progressive income tax increase that will also be on the ballot, Initiative #271, that seeks to raise income taxes by $2 billion a year.

“The Colorado economy —pre-COVID-19— was on fire thanks to our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and our flat state income tax,” said Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, and co-ballot proponent of the tax rate reduction. “We look forward to giving the voters a real choice between a progressive tax increase which will be billed as a middle-class tax cut, and a real tax cut for every Coloradan. Question is: which one is actually the tax cut? Hint: Not the ballot question that starts “Shall state taxes be increased $2,000,000,000 annually.”

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May 18

TABOR repeal is off the table for 2020. Now it’s Initiative 271, a $2 billion tax hike

TABOR repeal is off the table for 2020. Now it’s Initiative 271, a $2 billion tax hike targeting the wealthy

Vision 2020 Colorado, a coalition behind a tax system overhaul, tells The Sun it will move forward with a graduated income tax measure that will lower taxes for the vast majority

coalition pushing to overhaul Colorado’s tax system will not pursue a complete repeal of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights this year, opting instead for a ballot measure in November that would generate billions in new money with higher taxes on the wealthy.

The new initiative — which is expected to receive final legal approval Wednesday — is designed to create a more equitable tax system in Colorado by lowering the current 4.63% tax rate for households making less than $250,000 a year.

MORE: Colorado’s regressive tax system, and a proposed graduated income tax, explained

An estimated 95% of taxpayers who are below the threshold would qualify for the tax cut, which would take effect for 2021. For those who make more than $250,000, the additional earnings are taxed at a higher rate up to the maximum of 8.9% for annual taxable income over $1 million.

The organizations behind the ballot question, known collectively as Vision 2020 Colorado, expect the new graduated income tax to generate an estimated $2 billion a year in new money with at least half earmarked to increase teacher salaries and retention. The remainder would be spent at the discretion of state lawmakers.

“We know middle-income Coloradans are paying a greater share of the tax burden than the wealthy 5%, but our tax code isn’t just unfair, it’s inadequate,” said Scott Wasserman, president of the Bell Policy Center, a leading proponent of the measure. The tough decisions made by state lawmakers about how to spend the $30 billion annual budget, he added, are “a purely consequence of our state not having enough money.”

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