The Denver Post is reporting on a lawsuit that challenges the 2009 “FASTER” legislation. If you can remember, Bill Ritter signed FASTER into law in order to raise money for transportation repairs – specifically bridges and roads. How did they raise the money for the repairs. Simple: new “fees.” Under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), the legislature does not need our permission to increase fees, they only need permission to raise taxes. The lawsuit filed by the Mountain States Legal Foundation today on behalf of the TABOR foundation argues that the “fees” implemented by FASTER are not legitimate fees; they are clear cut taxes. Therefore, FASTER has increased taxes without our consent and thus, violated TABOR.
In addition to the fee tax increases to drum up funding, the state also went into debt for around $300 million. Also a violation of TABOR. As you can probably tell from my describing this situation, we are in full support of this lawsuit. In fact, we at the Independence Institute have provided much of the intellectual ammunition behind the suit. I want to specifically thank Fiscal Policy Center director Penn Pfiffner for taking the lead on providing the firepower against FASTER.
Take a look at our two Issue Backgrounders – one from Tom Ryan attacking the “fee” increase and the other from Rich Sokol attacking the debt increase. We also filmed an episode of my TV show, Devils Advocate with the authors. You can see the show here.
For a taste of the arguments against both the fee and debt increases, here are the executive summaries from the two papers. The “fee” increase summary:
In 2009 the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 09-108, more commonly known as FASTER. Signed by Governor Bill Ritter, the bill relies on distortions and deliberate misdirections to subvert Colorado’s Constitution and silence the voice of the people. The bill depends on continued silence for its provisions to move forward. Under FASTER, Colorado families are being forced to pay an unconstitutional tax of almost $100 million annually. This tax hits everyone who registers a vehicle in the state squarely in the pocketbook—a tax that was enacted directly by the legislature without a vote of the people.
For the unconstitutional debt increase, here is the summary:
Colorado’s citizens are supposed to have a final say before our state can borrow money. But the 2009 FASTER law subverted citizens’ rights to vote on tax and debt issues. The law allows an unelected group of bureaucrats to appoint an unelected administrator and together borrow whatever amounts of debt can be backed by FASTER funds. On December 1, 2010, they did just that. And now Colorado’s citizens are burdened with $300 million of newly issued debt—with the promise of more to come. Because of the borrowed money, it is unlikely a future legislature can ever repeal the FASTER tax. All this, and we weren’t asked!
Follow this here blog for updates on the lawsuit. We’ll be keeping a close eye on it.