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Statehouse Dems Struggling to Give Taxpayers Even a Small Break February 27, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Legislature, Referendum C.
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With ever more of Colorado taxpayers’ money in hand at the State Capitol these days, following the Referendum C “forever tax increase,” the Denver Post reports the Democratic majority is having a hard time deciding whether to give us even targeted small breaks – out of fear that a few tax incentives now may cut into future state revenues:

For the past several weeks, Democrats in both chambers have been quietly debating a thorny issue: Should they vote for bills that reduce the state’s tax revenue while Referendum C is in place?

Ref. C is a five-year timeout from constitutional state spending limits. When that window closes in 2010, the highest amount of yearly revenue during the five-year period becomes the new figure on which to calculate future spending limits.

The quandary, then, is whether voting for small tax incentives now will bring spending constraints later. And what makes the question all the more difficult, the Democrats say, is that most of the tax-incentive bills — which range from economic development packages to encouraging people to mitigate fire danger around their homes — are worthwhile.

“I like most all of the tax credits,” Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, said at a Democratic caucus meeting last week. “But it’s easier for us to take a position that we support none than picking and choosing.”

At the same meeting, Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, said it might be better to vote down the tax incentive proposals and use the money saved to fund programs that accomplish the same thing.

The remarks of Sen. Isgar and Sen. Gordon give evidence of the sort of mentality that remind us how out of touch some state lawmakers have become. At least they have counterparts showing a modicum of common sense:

Other Democrats, though, said it would be wrong to take a blanket position of voting against tax incentives.

“The best thing to do,” said Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, “is to consider these bills on their merits.”

In the House, Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said Democrats are struggling with similar questions.

“We’re trying to balance a series of competing concerns here,” he said.

Among Republicans in the Senate, no such conversations are taking place, said Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton. Instead, Kopp said lawmakers should give taxpayers a break, in light of Ref. C and Gov. Bill Ritter’s controversial property-tax freeze that is expected to bring in an extra $3.8 billion by 2017.

“We’re trying to protect the taxpayers,” he said.

Based on the most recent CUT legislative ratings, Sen. Kopp makes a mostly accurate point. With a rating of 76 out of 100, Kopp is one of the leading taxpayer champions in the state senate. And the lowest-rated Senate Republican (Sen. Ken Kester, 33.33) is considerably more taxpayer-friendly than the highest-rated Democrats (none scored higher than 12).

Still, there is room for improvement on all sides – albeit a lot more room for improvement among the majority party. Of those Democrats highlighted in the article, Sen. Shaffer was the highest with an 8, while Isgar, Gordon, and Speaker Romanoff each tallied a highly anemic 4.

Stories like the one in the Post today remind us how poorly taxpayers are being represented at the State Capitol.

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

“Constitutional conundrum” = “Colorado taxpayers, beware!” January 2, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Referendum C, TABOR.
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Featured in today’s Rocky Mountain News under the header “Constitutional conundrum” is a story highlighting lawmakers’ efforts to simplify the Colorado state constitution. And when I say “simplify,” I mean gut the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Or as new State Rep. Doug Bruce colorfully put it:

“They talk about fixing the system the way a vet would fix your pet,” the Colorado Springs Republican said. “They want to emasculate it.”

We’re a little more than two years past the passage of the permanent tax increase known as Referendum C (latest estimated price tag = $10 billion). In 2005 state officials and tax-consuming interest groups crossed the state preaching their jeremiads of doom and gloom if voters should reject Ref C. They didn’t tell us that a narrow victory for Ref C generating more than twice the predicted revenue, would also be a prescription for a crisis. But here they go again:

The price of doing nothing today could be that five years from now, the University of Colorado will be privatized, elementary school students will be using old textbooks and the plan to reform health care will have lost momentum, [Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver] said. “People will say the General Assembly saw this coming in 2008 and didn’t do anything about it.”

The next paragraph is perplexing, in light of the article’s content:

Most legislators agree the constitution’s biggest problem is the number of financial provisions that interest groups have convinced voters and lawmakers to approve.

Most of the article is focused on assailing the taxpayer-friendly TABOR, while giving the budget-busting Amendment 23 – mandating spending increases at the behest of an interest-group lobby – mere passing attention. That sets the stage for state Democrat leaders to inject the tired solution of another tax increase to “solve” the alleged problem:

Most agree there is no good way to revise the constitution. Lawmakers made the job harder for themselves when they passed a “single subject rule” for citizen initiatives and legislatively referred ballot measures, to stop wide-ranging initiatives such as TABOR from ever hitting the ballot again.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, has proposed asking voters to lift that rule. The exception would apply only to the constitution, and only for a set period of time. It would allow lawmakers to return to voters in a subsequent year with a fiscally revised constitution that they could vote up or down.

Groff backs that idea as a good first step. It would give lawmakers the opening they need to deal comprehensively with the internal fiscal conflicts of the constitution, he said. Then, two or three years from now, the legislature could think about putting “maybe a son or a cousin or a mother-in-law of Ref C” back on the ballot, he said.

Colorado taxpayers, beware: state officials have a three-year plan for you and your money.

Better Living Through Higher Taxes – Part 2 December 30, 2007

Posted by awatcher in Uncategorized.
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Rep Dianne Primivera wrote Improving the lives of middle class Coloradans. 

She has come up with a new trick.  She is going to spend a billion dollars without raising taxes.  Care to bet?

There is no more important time in a child’s education than the earliest years. Along with Governor Ritter, we plan to give our kids a smart start by making early childhood education available to every 4- and 5-year-old in the state.

If 12 years of education cost’s X dollars in each school district, is there any reason why 14 years of education won’t cost 17% more?  Of course, the legislature won’t raise taxes.  They will force local school districts to do so.

Now for the biggest magic act of all:

The Building Excellent Schools Today – or BEST -program will leverage $1 billion to repair and rebuild crumbling schools without raising taxes.

We guess that since Ref C there is a spare billion dollars laying around the Capitol.  Maybe we can get some of it spent on roads.  If this woman wants to claim that all of this can be accomplished without raising taxes, why did she vote for a tax increase in the guise of a property tax freeze?

Referendum C revenue will be $10 billion. Insatiable spenders say “Not enough.” December 26, 2007

Posted by davekopel in Referendum C, TABOR.
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An editorial in today’s Pueblo Chieftan reminds us that when referendum C was first promoted, the advocates claimed that it would raise $3 billion. Later, they raised the estimate to $3.75 billion. As the Independence Institute pointed out at the time, the 3.75B was implausible, because revenues from the oil and gas severance tax were soaring. Now, it turns out that ref C will raise an extra 10 billion dollars in taxes. Although the ref C advocates dishonestly described ref C as as “temporary” “five-year” “time-out” from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the effect of ref C will be a permanent increase in state government taxing and spending levels allowed under the state Constitution. And yet, $10 billion extra dollars, over five years, plus billions and billions more in perpetuity, is not enough for the tax consumer lobby, which is gearing up to push another tax increase on the 2008 ballot.

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