May 13

Coronavirus may trigger the second-largest property tax cut in Colorado history, further crippling local budgets

The reductions under Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment would slash total school district revenue by an estimated $491 million. Fire districts would also be hard hit.

At a moment when state and local governments are already drowning in red ink, Colorado’s constitution is now projected to trigger the second-largest residential property tax cut in modern history.

Under forecasts presented Tuesday, Colorado lawmakers could be asked to cut residential property taxes by nearly 18% in 2021 to comply with a tax-limiting constitutional provision known as the Gallagher Amendment.

For homeowners, it would mean permanent financial relief at a time of rising unemployment and deep economic uncertainty. But if the cut goes through as projected, it would have cascading effects at nearly every level of government in the state, gashing the budgets of property-tax reliant fire districts, county governments and schools.

The reductions would cut total school district revenue by an estimated $491 million. About half of that gap will impact the state budget, which is constitutionally required to backfill certain school funding shortfalls, even as it faces a fiscal catastrophe of its own as sales and income tax revenue plummet. In one fell swoop, it could wipe out all the recent gains the state had made in erasing its unfunded debt to schools, formerly known as the negative factor. At the county level, statewide revenue could drop by $204 million.

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Apr 27

Colorado lawmakers are looking at how to close a $3 billion budget shortfall. Here’s the roadmap.

The Joint Budget Committee will begin reviewing recommendations for spending cuts this week to rewrite the $30 billion state budget

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the $30 billion-plus state budget begins to take shape this week as lawmakers consider massive spending cuts.

How much tax revenue Colorado will lose to the paralyzed economy remains uncertain, but the governor’s budget office is projecting $3 billion in lost revenue for the current fiscal year and the next.

The General Assembly’s budget writers on Monday will start reviewing recommendations from legislative analysts for potential spending cuts across all government agencies. The documents are expected to include scenarios for slashing budgets as much as 20% and force legislators to make hard choices that will impact most Colorado families, according to drafts reviewed by The Colorado Sun.

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Apr 07

“Truth and reason in ballot language!”

“Truth and reason in ballot language!”
April, 2020

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights includes good government provisions that improve election procedures.

There was a time when Colorado elected officials could push for passage of a bond, or for new taxes, but bury the cost very deep into the explanation on the ballot, in hopes that many voters might not notice the magnitude of the tax.

The ballot language would promise all kinds of wonderful outcomes.  Not only would the new revenues for the government solve the problem in perpetuity, but it would bring world peace and even make the voter more handsome!  Then, near the end in the midst of a lot of other promises, would come the information that the cost to the taxpayer would be very, very high.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights stopped that sort of game playing.  Now, the government must put the cost right up front.  It has no option but to state how much the new tax will weigh annually on the taxpayer.  For a new bond, the ballot measure must state at the very beginning how much the total new debt will be and what that means for the total repayment cost.  Only then may the government (“district”) present its reasons for the new taxes.

Another game that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights anticipated and which it explicitly prohibits is a government underestimating a revenue number.  If the new taxes exceed the estimate, the entirety of the overage must be refunded the next year and the rate adjusted downward.

Colorado constitution (Article X, Section 20), paragraph 3(c) states:  “Ballot titles shall begin, ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) TAXES BE INCREASED ____ ANNUALLY?’  (or)  ‘SHALL (DISTRICT) DEBT BE INCREASED (principal amount) WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF (maximum..)’.”  Earlier in the same paragraph is the requirement that “if a tax increase exceeds any estimate… for the same fiscal year, the tax increase is thereafter reduced up to 100% in proportion to the …excess, and the combined excess revenue refunded….”

The paragraph was carefully crafted as a good government improvement, with TABOR protecting the taxpayer in ways beyond just voting on tax rates.

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 12

NEW COLORADO BALLOT PROPOSAL

Increase taxes on rich, lower them for rest

Coloradans may be voting this November on a proposal to raise billions of dollars annually by hiking taxes on the rich and using the money on schools and other, unspecified needs of a “growing population and changing economy.”

An issue committee that calls itself Fair Tax Colorado announced Thursday that it will begin collecting signatures to place its proposal, titled Initiative 271, on the 2020 ballot. They’ll need at least 124,632 of them to qualify for the ballot.

It would compensate for the loss in revenue from the tax cut by requiring everyone earning at least $250,000 to pay a 7% income tax rate on their federal taxable income after the first $250,000 and up to $500,000.

Anyone earning more than $500,000 would then pay a 7.75% rate on their income above and beyond the first $500,000, and up to $1 million. Finally, for anyone earning more than $1 million, the measure proposes to tax them $67,700 plus 8.9% of all federal taxable income above and beyond the first million

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Mar 04

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