Colorado’s population in 1992 was 3.5 million. Census projections put the state’s population in 2017 at 5.5 million. In 1992, 812,308 citizens — 53.68 percent of voters — said yes to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), and 700,906 citizens — 46.32 percent of voters — said no.
Not to make too fine a point, but the 1.5 million 1992 voters on TABOR would comprise 27 percent of today’s population. And many of those 1.5 million people are no longer living in Colorado. Yet here we are, 25 years later, juggling TABOR limitations at the Capitol.
As background, the state in 1992 was in a deep recession from the oil and real estate bust of the 1980s. Front Range citizens especially were in an economic pit.
Downtown Denver was a dump: no Coors Field, no Pepsi Center, no new Mile High Stadium, no new Auraria Campus, no lightrail, no fancy Union Station, no pedestrian bridge over to the Highlands, no condos in LoDo or RiNo, downtown shopping fleeing to the suburbs, and prominent Denver retail names gone bankrupt.
Colorado Springs was hit hard as its real estate expansion of the ’80s died. Banks were on the brink of going out of business across the state.
After the anti-tax 1992 TABOR vote, Denver metro citizens did a 180-degree reverse and voted to build Denver International Airport. Then citizens voted for Coors Field and Mile High Stadium. With help from Gov. Bill Owens, RTD got a tax for light rail.
These investments set the stage for Colorado’s current economic vibrancy. The investments occurred based on a good feature of TABOR — let the people decide what projects and programs merit their money. Yet TABOR’s bad features, still in place, are wreaking havoc on the state’s budget.
Senator Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, was among five legislators who voted against SB-254, the budget appropriations Long Bill. He’s asking people to take a long view back and forward: “It’s a vote to raise the TABOR issue once again. We’re not funding our schools, oil and gas inspectors, renewable energy, or filling in gaps from cuts from D.C.”
It’s esoteric for newcomers to know that Colorado’s current budget is based on the 2009-2010 recession years due to TABOR. “Unlike other states, because of TABOR’s ratchet down effect, Colorado doesn’t get to make up for downturns and come back,” says Kerr.
When the state gins up more tax revenues, as it has, the budget base doesn’t move up. Its budget level continues at the 2009-2010 recession point, forcing refunds of extra tax dollars.
The Hospital Provider Reimbursement Fee portrays the problem. The health care fees, considered a tax, push state revenues above TABOR limits. The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee put up SB17-256 to reduce provider fees by $264 million, which causes an additional $264 million loss in federal matching funds.
The provider fee reimburses hospitals for delivering care to people who can’t pay. Without the fee, some hospitals, particularly in rural counties, don’t have enough money to operate. When those hospitals close, uninsured and insured alike lose care.
Four Democratic Senators, Irene Aguilar, Kerry Donovan, Matt Jones and Andy Kerr, and Republican Sen. Owen Hill, voted against the budget Long Bill. Also affected by TABOR is the ongoing $880 million annual negative factor that lowers public K-12 education spending. House members get to vote next.
So the question is, when will today’s citizens get the chance to vote on tax policy for today?
When it comes to broadband access, Colorado has a mountainous challenge — literally.
The vast majority of Coloradans live in areas well served by multiple, private-sector, high-speed internet providers. Cable providers alone have invested over $8 billion of their own capital to upgrade their network. Most cable customers in Colorado will have access to affordable, 1-gigabit-per-second connections this year without the expenditure of a penny of public funds. That is a remarkable story.
Heads up, Pueblo County drivers. Or better yet, buckle up, and anyone in a truck statewide might want to heed that advice, as the Colorado State Patrol and Department of Transportation began one of those "Click It Or Ticket" enforcement campaigns. As the Gazette reported, drivers in Pueblo County had the highest non-compliance rate in the state last year, and motorists and passengers in pickups had the lowest usage rate of any type of vehicle. But it's good advice for anyone, anywhere, no matter what type of vehicle.
Mornings are rough. Stop-and go-traffic on I-25 can feel more like a nauseating carnival ride than a highway. It’s no easier in the city. A car just ahead with out-of-state plates slams on its brakes and that cup of morning coffee flies through the air, staining your shirt. The car ahead is now attempting to parallel park, and doing a pretty poor job of it. The minutes tick by until traffic opens up enough to swerve angrily around the parallel parking pariah, narrowly avoiding a pedestrian who decided to walk diagonally across a busy downtown intersection. Arrive at work late, stained, smelling like dark roast and at peak levels of frustration. Time to start the day.
Colorado is facing an affordable housing crisis as both the demand and the cost of entry-level homes continues to skyrocket, while housing construction, particularly in the areas of condominiums, remains largely nonexistent.
Some have argued the absence of affordable housing construction, which condominiums and starter single-family homes provide, is simply due to a lack of demand.
Among the most promising things about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, in conjunction with a Republican-controlled Congress, was the long-awaited realization of the repeal of Obamacare — the expensive government takeover of health care that was President Obama’s signal “achievement” — which drove up health insurance premiums and deductibles, priced millions out of the health insurance market, cost taxpayers billions of dollars and instituted a Medicaid expansion that will be the fiscal undoing of several states in the nation, including Colorado, if not reversed and accompanied with serious reform.
A few years ago, Colorado triggered a wave of innovation when it became the first state to update its laws so that ride-sharing digital platforms, Uber and Lyft, could continue to thrive while establishing proper safety and consumer protections.
What we know now, two years after that effort, is that it was crucial for Colorado’s economy and lifestyle that our laws continue to keep pace with developments in modern commerce.
Now that Colorado lawmakers have convened in Denver, the push for increased government spending has already begun. But before we go down the road to more state spending — and higher taxes — lawmakers would be wise to consider real solutions that will improve lives without placing an additional financial burden on Colorado families.
Here are five ways to increase opportunity while ensuring responsible spending.
First, uphold the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Since 1992, TABOR has ensured that Coloradans have input in the tax rate they pay.
A recent analysis by the Competitive Enterprise Institute showed that for every law Congress passed in 2016, the Obama administration issued 18 rules and regulations. With a total of 3,853 last year, the administration issued the most rules and regulations since 2005.
When done right, rules and regulations play an important role in keeping our communities safe and secure. But over the past several years, we’ve seen a breakdown in the balance of power between our three branches of government that has led to harmful over-regulation.
This is why we’ve worked in the House to set the stage for rolling back harmful over-regulation and restoring the balance of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. We recently passed two bills that will accomplish these goals: the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 21) and the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, or REINS, Act (H.R. 26).
In Colorado’s upper legislative chamber everything is different and everything has stayed the same.
For years, Democrats have held the reins of power at the Capitol, and Republicans have exerted what influence they could by acting as the loyal opposition — mainly by blocking bills and offering alternative policy narratives. Most observers expect that arrangement to continue, including many members of the Senate, which this year, same as last year, remains the lone center of legislative power controlled by Republicans.
But November’s surprise national election results, which gave Republicans full control in Washington, have shaken expectations in Colorado. Sources on the right and the left at the Capitol, still reeling from the the wild 2016 election season, avoided making anything but the most general predictions about the coming legislative session — except to say that the jolt delivered by voters might just work to shake up battle lines, start conversations, focus lawmakers on solutions and result in productive lawmaking.