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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 30, 20178min3320


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Jesse MalloryJesse MallorySeptember 28, 20176min7880

It’s becoming harder for opponents of education freedom to come up with legitimate reasons families should not have more options when deciding the best possible education options for their children. The U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult with a pair of recent rulings, including one that said denying approximately 500 families in Douglas County the ability to exercise that freedom was wrong.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 25, 201710min325

Some say nothing really prepares you for elective office, but Kevin Van Winkle might disagree. The youthful, second-term lawmaker, who represents Douglas County’s District 43 in the Colorado House of Representatives, served for years as a legislative staffer before his election in 2014. Van Winkle, a Highlands Ranch Republican, learned a lot from his time working behind the scenes with legislators — and is now putting his experience to use serving an area of DougCo where was born and raised, in a district previously held by former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty. And Van Winkle certainly seems to know his way around. In addition to his regular committee work at the Capitol, he sits on the Legislative Board of Ethics, the board of the Colorado Channel and the Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission.


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Tom RamstackTom RamstackSeptember 22, 20176min222
WASHINGTON — Colorado’s lawmakers and business leaders are adding their voices to a controversy over tax reform as Republicans prepare to announce their overhaul plan next week. Republicans say they need to simplify the tax code for a boost to the nation’s economy and job outlook. Some Democrats are concerned changing the tax code would […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 14, 20175min4570

As often is the case, the Colorado Municipal League is the go-to source to explain complicated issues that we untrained reporters struggle to fully grasp. That’s the case with the tax bugaboo that has Gov. John Hickenlooper working on plans to call lawmakers back to Denver for a special session next month.

The mistake was introduced when the legislature hurriedly passed Senate Bill 267 at the end of the last session to reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee. The aim was to get it out from under a constitutional spending cap in order to drum up money for rural hospitals and transportation without — only technically — a tax increase.

For special districts, however, it was a significant tax decrease, which was never lawmakers’ aim.

In July CML’s deputy director, Kevin Bommer, wrote the clearest, most definitive explanation to date that Pulitzer Prize-winning publications in Colorado could only admire.

A critical part of the deal was an increase in marijuana taxes that will fund other portions of the deal, such as a business personal property tax credit. However, the decision to exempt marijuana from the state’s base sales tax and increase the special sales tax rate was made on the fly. The resulting fallout has become a cautionary tale for many in the state that blame local sales taxes for being complicated but fail to look at state policies that muddy the waters.

Bommer cited some reporting from the venerable Denver Post, but noted the state’s newspaper of record wasn’t the first to take a shot explaining the legislative quagmire. He’s right. The driver of this political conversation was Sherrie Peif of Complete Colorado. The Post rode her reporting coat tails four days later.

“As a general rule, changes in the state sales tax base automatically apply to statutory entities – statutory municipalities, counties, and special districts,” Bommer explained in his July 24 blog. “With over 80 different state sale tax exemptions on the books and legislation every session that propose more, the Colorado Municipal League is perennially busy ensuring that the state’s decision to exempt something from its own base does not automatically exempt it in statutory municipalities. (Home rule municipalities are thankfully unaffected by state exemptions, and such decisions on exemptions are purely local)

“The process was no different for SB 267.”

Read Boomer’s excellent Legislative Matters blog here.

Special session in the works to fix error in hospital provider fee bill

There were critics that the compromise was being rushed through at the time. One of the most clear and notable was Michael Fields, Americans for Prosperity’s Colorado clutch man who urged lawmakers to slow down and think deeply instead of swiftly on far-reaching tax policy. For years, the GOP has been resistant to reclassifying the hospital provider fee, because it represented monkeying with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the constitutional amendment that conservatives revere like Reagan because it caps state spending.

Fields enjoyed an I-told-you-so moment Wednesday night after Colorado Politics was the first to report that Gov. John Hickenlooper’s staff is working on dates for the special session.

He said on Twitter:


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Marianne GoodlandSeptember 12, 20176min171
The nation’s leading anti-tax crusader, Grover Norquist, and his organization, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), are taking aim at a conservative Colorado lawmaker as well as one of the state’s leading conservative voices, the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity. In a press release today, Americans for Tax Reform criticized Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 2, 20178min770


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 29, 20176min1180

With failed efforts by Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act now in the rearview mirror, at least in the eyes of the public, Congress has now turned to the next big ticket item in President Donald Trump’s agenda: tax reform.

But at least one Colorado congressman wants Washington to see tax reform coming out of Congress as a bipartisan effort, with full hearings and meetings and collaboration, unlike Republican efforts on the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Greeley Republican, spoke today to a small gathering of backers of tax reform in Denver’s Lincoln Park, across the street from the state Capitol.

“It’s time we get over the fact that Republicans steal from the Treasury to help their friends and Democrats steal from the Treasury to help their friends,” Buck told Colorado Politics. “It’s time we recognize that the American people deserve better.

“We cannot put a tax reform package on the floor of the House and expect Democrats to get on board. We should run this through committees, get input from members and leadership…and make sure we have the best package.”

The gathering, which was part barbecue and “tax reform games” and part serious policy discussion, was sponsored by the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group supported financially by billionaires David and Charles Koch.

Jesse Mallory, AFP’s state director and the former chief of staff to the state Senate Republicans, said Tuesday’s event would help raise awareness about tax reform.

“We want something that’s simpler, close loopholes and is fair,” Mallory told Colorado Politics. “We’ve been calling on Congress to take this seriously, and to create a system that is fair, flatter” and good for everyone.”

Mallory said AFP is actively engaged in discussions at the federal level, and that Tuesday was an opportunity to talk to citizens about tax reform — and to sign them up to help AFP with its famous door-to-door efforts.

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City also jumped onto the tax reform platform, telling the audience that they need to show up at the Capitol and to not let the 100 lawmakers in the General Assembly dictate what’s going on.

“Put the money back into the hands of those who know how to spend it,” Grantham said.

Grantham and Democratic Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver unsuccessfully sponsored a bill in the 2017 session to raise the state’s sales tax to fund a $3.5 billion bond issue to chip away at a backlog of fixes to the state’s roads, highways and bridges.

Buck explained that the tax reform package being floated in Congress would reduce the corporate tax rate, lower the small business tax rate to around 15 to 18 percent and reduce the tax rate and simplify the tax code for individuals.

“You could fill out a tax return on a postcard, he added.

The nation’s tax codes picks winner and losers, he said: special interest groups and corporations get certain privileges.

“We don’t get those privileges, which is fundamentally wrong,” Buck said.

He told the crowd of about 50 that the enemy of tax reform is not Democrats nor the Senate. “It’s the special interest groups that want to maintain their privileges,” he said.

By the end of September, Buck said, Americans should know whether such a tax reform package will be possible. It should be through the House of Representatives within the next two weeks, he added, but his greatest hope is that the package will be bipartisan.

“I hope it’s fair for Democrats, Republicans, affiliateds. I hope it’s a bill that America says ‘Congress did its best job, the president signed a good bill and we will go forward.’”

Buck demurred when asked if he is considering a run for Colorado attorney general, pointing out that he’s running for re-election to Congress next year “because Cynthia Coffman is running for attorney general. If anything changes I’ll let you know.”

Coffman is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2018.

As Buck walked away from the stage, the sound system, perhaps ironically, cranked out the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 28, 20175min420

ColoradoPolitics.com has reported before on a couple of ballot proposals to curb growth in Lakewood, the old, inner-ring Denver burb that has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years.

The pending Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative would among other things place a 1 percent annual growth limit on new residential construction. Meanwhile, a proposal by a Lakewood City Council member to ask voters in November to place a moratorium on new building permits has stalled after failing last month to get support from a council majority.

Critics of both efforts say they would undermine the city’s ongoing economic revitalization. Opponents of the ballot proposals include Mayor Adam Paul and most council members.

Such push-back from the status quo is duly noted by the authors of an anonymous blog covering Lakewood politics. LakewoodPols.com, which is sympathetic to the growth-control measures, offers some insights into the face-off defining local politics — pitting what the blog refers to as the “establishment” against “reformers.” Under the headline “Establishment Loss in 2017?” the blog sketches out potential scenarios in the November municipal election’s council races:

Five Council seats are up for election in November.  Two seats are open since the incumbents Scott Koop (W2) and David Wiechman (W4) are term-limited.  In Ward 3 Shakti is stepping down to run for the state house thus creating an open seat.   In the other two wards, incumbents will be running for a second term – Ramey Johnson (W1) and Karen Harrison (W5).

Of the five seats contested, two are currently held by reformers – Johnson and Wiechman.  If these two seats are held by independent candidates then the balance remains at 6-5 in favor of the establishment.  If the independents pick up one of the other three seats currently held by the establishment (Koop, Shakti and Harrison) then the balance of power could swing to a 5-6 vote in favor of the independents.

LakewoodPols also blogged last week on what it contends are “strange bedfellows” in the dust-up over growth — an alliance between left and right:

Reformer Ramey Johnson, supported by the Council independents, proposed a six-month moratorium on new building permits for large multi-family residential projects.  The liberals led by Max Tyler, supported by Tom Quinn, Gary Harty, et. al. opposed any slow down in the City’s current high-density growth program claiming even a temporary time-out might decrease the supply of new low-cost housing.

This time, the extreme left was joined by the extreme right, led by the out-of-state Koch Brothers lobbying group (Americans for Prosperity).  The right claimed slowing down growth could affect the property rights of the developers.  This strange alliance is the latest example of the extremes of politics (left and right) having a shared interest in keeping the political environment in constant turmoil.  This is not the first time the extremes have joined together to oppose the moderate middle ground’s efforts to fashion reasonable solutions that actually work.

An interesting take that certainly challenges conventional thinking: Moderates back growth control; growth is supported by the extremsts.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 6, 20178min340