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Property Tax Revenue Estimate More Than Doubles January 9, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, Referendum C, TABOR.
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From the Denver Post today comes staggering, but not altogether surprising, news:

Gov. Bill Ritter’s property-tax freeze will generate an estimated $2 billion more over 10 years than lawmakers were expecting when they approved it eight months ago, according to the latest calculations.

The revenue leap fired up Republican lawmakers — who were already calling the freeze an “illegal tax hike” — as the legislature convenes today for its 2008 session.

The freeze, which prevents local property taxes for schools from dropping, is now projected to result in nearly $3.8 billion in state money by 2017. That’s more than double the $1.74 billion estimated when lawmakers passed the governor’s proposal in May. [Emphasis added]

Depending on which school district your home or business inhabits, this means even twice the pain for your wallet than previously estimated. Sounds like a rerun of the Referendum C story.

We can’t forget that it is Gov. Bill Ritter and the Democratic Party who own this unconstitutional proposal (i.e., they should have asked the voters first!). They’ve tried dodging the argument and playing dumb. But all lawmakers and public officials need to be kept accountable to the taxpayers they represent.

Cross posted at Ritter Watch

Elect a Liberal, Pay the Piper December 22, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Colorado Governor.
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In what might be a prophetic headline, the Greeley Tribune informs its readers “Tax hike: It might be more about what to tax, not whether to tax.”

Gov. Bill Ritter has indicated he’d support one tax increase proposal on the 2008 ballot, wanting to avoid cluttering voters’ minds during a presidential election. It’s also possible that there won’t be any tax proposal at all, but given the ambitious ideas that Ritter, legislative Democrats and even some Republicans have for the state, such a referred measure looks pretty likely.

A Tax Bill Ritter Doesn’t Like? December 11, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Uncategorized.
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Colorado Confidential published a fluff piece on Rep. Kathleen Curry that contained the following:

“If I propose a severance tax hike and the measure gets on the ballot,” Curry said with a laugh. “I’ve been told the energy industry has set aside a $50 million advertising budget to fight it. I’ll admit the industry watches me pretty closely.”

Curry said Gov. Bill Ritter also has asked her to hold off on such a proposal, “but that’s about all I hear from my district,” she said. During one day, she counted two live interviews and four media calls, all about severance tax.

“I’m getting a lot of resistance on all levels to not forward a bill to increase the severance tax rate,” Curry said, shrugging, “but I have an obligation to my constituents.”

We would guess that he likes the tax increase but he wants to hold it off as an easy tax to pass compared to the inevitable taxes that his “blue ribbon” special interest panels will propose.  You know, a billion here, two there, and before long the state budget is doubled and businesses are leaving the state for a friendlier climate.

Another Democrat, Another Tax November 27, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Uncategorized.
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Rep. Claire Levy has a problem.  She got involved with what people in Boulder are calling a legalized land grab by her campaign’s treasurer.  If she had kept quiet, the scandal might have passed her by.  She didn’t keep quiet, and now she is in damage control mode.

Now, in what appears (to the commenters on the link we provide) to be a diversionary tactic, she has announced the intention to create a new tax for a pet project.

The problem for Levy is that the transportation blue ribbon panel has already laid claim to this particular tax, but it is nice to see that she is always thinking of new (to her) ways to separate taxpayers from their money.

Of course, the biggest taxer in the state is our friend Bill Ritter.  One of the best in depth analysis of Ritter’s spending plans on transportation that we have seen is by Morgan Liddick at Summit Daily News:

Pretty soon we’re going to be talking about real money here. By the way, this new tax is intended to replace the revenue stream currently provided by Senate Bill 1 of 1997 and House Bill 1310 of 2002, which provided CDOT with $272 million this year.

Apparently, this funding mechanism had the fatal flaw of being sensitive to the state’s economic condition; during the last recession, funds tapered off as growth slowed. Rest assured, the new tax won’t let that happen again.

And the $272 million which will probably be raised by the old mechanism next year? If you believe that will be counted as part of the billion buck boost, well … that’s just cute. Credulous, but cute. Instead, it will reportedly be transferred to the higher education segment of the budget, together with the $59 million of “new money” — remember the code — that Governor Ritter has already requested.

Selling Gold Watches in Colorado November 24, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Colorado Governor, Colorado Legislature.
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Holy Cow!  Some fool invited me to blog here, too.

“Gold watching” is an old tradition among those who allocate government funds.  It is a term for putting something that the taxpayer or tax consumer really wants below the funding line as a means of getting as many programs with less support as possible funded (above the line).

Anyone who has observed Colorado politicians in the past few years has seen gold watching being used against the taxpayer’s interest in the most classic way.  Ref C was supposed to be a timeout from TABOR to solve three problems.  Borrowing from a Mark Hillman – Amy Oliver study:

Voters were assured by Ref C proponents that K-12 education, colleges and universities, and health care would split the lion’s share of the resources if the measure passed…

However, a closer look at the state budget shows that the supposed beneficiaries have not benefited nearly as much as the  remainder of the state budget.  Since the 2005-06 budget, passed prior to Ref C, general fund spending has increased by $1 billion, or 16.1 percent. Spending on Ref C “targets”—K-12, higher ed and health care—has grown by just 11.9 percent, or $557 million. Meanwhile, the remainder of the general fund, which wasn’t targeted for a Ref C infusion, has grown by 28.7 percent, or $446 million.

Now that Bill Ritter and his band of merry taxaholics control the legislature, they have conveniently forgotten their promises to the public.  They know that the public wants more money spent on higher education, so they will ask for another, targeted tax increase, with the money to come out of individual taxpayer’s pockets.  They think that the public can be tricked into paying for the same gold watch (higher education) two or three times while they siphon huge sums for other less popular spending projects.

Another gold watch tactic is to use an unpopular tax source to fund less popular programs.  Sin taxes are traditional sources of revenue.  No non-smoker  likes smokers, and the more it costs to smoke, a voter might think, the fewer smokers there might be. 

It is very likely that the next “sin” tax target will be the oil and gas industry, specifically, severance taxes.  With Oil hovering around $100 a barrel and Natural Gas that is like to hit $10 per thousand, what voter wouldn’t be willing to see the state take some of that money and use it for … the voter will hardly care.

The Republicans have tried to head them off at the plateau by proposing that severance taxes go toward funding higher education.  This ploy recognizes two facts 1) higher severance taxes are likely to be approved by the voters and 2) the voters want a good higher ed program.  If the Republicans can direct that fire-hose of new government funding into higher ed, they might, just possibly, be able to slow the growth of government in other areas.

The Democrats are having none of this because it destroys their gold watch plans.  Care to bet that the four month delay in approving drilling on the Roan Plateau that Ken Salazar negotiated with BLM by holding a political appointee hostage was more about giving Democrats time to figure out how to use the severance taxes and still be able to gold watch education than it was about saving the plateau?

Since this isn’t my blog, (he he) I’ll make a rash prediction:  Before Bill Ritter leaves office, he will find a way to remove his objections to drilling on the Roan Plateau as long as the windfall (more like avalanche) in new money goes to his own projects, none of which will be higher education.  Taxpayers will be asked to fund Higher Ed by digging deeper into their own pockets – again!

Note:  This is the first time I’ve used this blogging software, so I have no idea about what I will get or if I can edit it.  Have patience.

I am, as always, a watcher, though here, I might be “awatcher” 

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