Archive for the 'TABOR' Category

Now HERE’s a worthy charity

Posted by on Jan 16 2015 | Media, TABOR, Taxes

As you know, we here at the Independence Institute sometimes fundraise for charities with whom we feel a special connection, like our work supporting Children’s Hospital. Well, there’s another charity that needs your help. Badly.

I’m proud to announce our goal of helping the Denver Post, Colorado’s newspaper of record, hire an actual copy editor.

If you are unaware, a copy editor is the person at a newspaper that not only checks an article’s spelling, grammar, and style before it is published, he or she also checks that the story is factually correct to certain standards. In other words, they’re the poor slob who has to make a liberal’s article seem at least plausibly objective.

And the poor Denver Post, well, they must not have even one.

We all know the Post has issued a fatwa against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, but they really let their anti-TABOR Freudian slip show when they labeled it the “so called” Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, even though that’s exactly what it is called in the state constitution. Funny, when slobbering over the Affordable Care Act, they never reported it as the “so-called Affordable Care Act.”

The conservative blog,, beat us to the punch skewering a poorly-written, typo-filled Post hit piece on the new Republican senate president. Any veneer of professional journalism the paper tried to project was wiped clean. Check it out.

Anyway, we’re thinking maybe of starting a 10-mile “Copy Editor Fun Run,” or something like that. A blind newspaper reader could be the poster-child. Won’t you help one of “Dean’s Kids”?

Let me say, I might disagree with most of the Denver Post’s editorial stances. However, they have every right to have them. But for the sake of honesty, shouldn’t they replace their front-page masthead with the simple words, “Editorial Section”?

Speaking of editorials, we do a number of them, including some in video form. We call them the Freedom Minute.

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Cato Institute gives Hick an “F”

Posted by on Oct 02 2014 | debt, Economic LIberties, Economics, Economy, TABOR, Taxes

Our friends over at the Cato Institute just came out with their Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors (2014). You’ll never guess where our governor lands in their ranking. Would you believe it if I told you Hick is 2nd?! Yes, Governor Hickenlooper – Mr. I haven’t met a tax or debt increase I haven’t liked – earned 2nd.

SECOND FROM DEAD LAST THAT IS. Only California Governor Jerry Brown was ranked lower than Hick.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture (click to enlarge):

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 3.39.26 PM

Each state get its own little paragraph. Here’s the commentary for Colorado, ranked 49th out of 50:

General fund spending has ballooned over the past three years under Governor Hickenlooper, from $7.2 billion in 2012 to a proposed $9.2 billion in 2015. The governor’s proposed spending increases have averaged 6 percent over the past three years. His most recent budget included a 15 percent spending boost for higher education and new spending on corporate welfare programs. State government employment is way up under Hickenlooper, rising 16 percent since he came to office. He pushed for a huge personal income tax increase on the ballot in 2013 to fund education, which would have raised more than $900 million annually. If passed, Amendment 66 would have replaced Colorado’s flat income tax of 4.63 percent with a two-rate structure of 5.0 and 5.9 percent. Luckily for Colorado taxpayers, this increase was soundly rejected by voters, 65 to 35 percent.

Read the whole thing here.

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How To Deal With a Faithless State Lawmaker: The Hudak Recall

Posted by on Nov 27 2013 | Civil Rights, congress, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, elections, guns, Politics, Second Amendment, TABOR

Advocates of freedom and constitutional rights won a victory today when Senator Evie Hudak resigned to avoid being recalled.

For years, people have asked me, “When a Member of Congress repeatedly violates his or her oath of office, what can we do?” Because Congressmen can’t be impeached (and their colleagues rarely expel them), my answer always has been, “You have no alternative but oppose him or her in the next election.”

But for Colorado elected officials, we do have an alternative: recall. And after long failure to use that tool, the voters finally have deployed it—three times this year.

Recall elections work because in recall elections, unlike general elections, issues aren’t “bundled” together in inseparable packages. You vote on one office, and on the record of one politician. Of course, the political class doesn’t like that: They like it when government is involved in so many matters and election campaigns are so muddled that you don’t really have a clear “yes” or “no” vote: So you just re-elect the person whose name you know—the incumbent.

But a recall, like a voter initiative, offers the electorate a much more focused choice. It’s democracy at its finest.

In some other states, the political class (sometimes through the courts) have gelded the recall process by requiring adequate “cause” for a recall. In those states, whether there is “cause” is decided by (guess who?) the politicians or judges. In light of what has happened this year, look for an effort to limit recall in Colorado, too. If they do try to limit recall, just remember: In a republic, lawmakers are the agents of the people, and the only judges of whether an agent has been faithful are those who hired him.

In the case of Evie Hudak, the signs were that a majority of her district believed she had been faithless: Contrary to her oath of office and contrary to her employers’ instructions (as set forth in the state and federal Constitutions), she had attacked our right to keep and bear arms. Because of this, she deserved to be gone, just as much as if she had attacked our right of free speech or our state constitutional right to vote on tax increases.

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AUDIO: Penn Pfiffner, Rob Natelson on Mike Rosen Show

Posted by on Aug 20 2012 | Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Media, PPC, TABOR, Taxes, U.S. Constitution

This morning on 850 KOA’s Mike Rosen Show, two of our senior fellows joined Mike in studio to discuss the lawsuit against our Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). Officially called Kerr v. Hickenlooper in federal court, the suit attempts to kill TABOR in Colorado because it allegedly violates our United States’ Constitution’s guarantee clause. The guarantee clause, ehem, guarantees us a “republican” form of government. No one expected the lawsuit to go very far and indeed, it came as quite a surprise when one of our federal judges allowed the suit to proceed.

Now we defenders of the TABOR amendment are left scratching our heads wondering how this could be, and curiously, whether there is any merit to the case. That’s where senior fellows Penn Pfiffner of our Fiscal Policy Center and Rob Natelson of Constitution Studies come in. In their 30 minute segment on the Mike Rosen program, they explain the background of the case, why it matters, and most importantly, why it’s total bunk (and deserves to be thrown out).

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“FASTER” Goes to Court

Posted by on May 21 2012 | Government Largess, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC, TABOR, Taxes

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.

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Colorado Continues Slide Down Rankings

Posted by on May 01 2012 | Economics, Economy, Government Largess, Growth of Government,, PPC, Regulation, TABOR, Taxes

Each year for the past five years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has produced an informative bit of research called, “Rich States, Poor States.” In it, an all-star cast of authors (Art Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams) pore through financial data, fiscal policy, regulatory policy, debt ratios, labor policy,  legislation and more to rank every state in accordance to their level of prosperity now and the direction they are headed. For the last 4 editions, Colorado had ranked solidly in the top 5 or 6 – with a strong showing at number 2 just 4 years ago. However, in the latest edition of Rich States, Poor States, we have fallen to number 8. Why is this? Jonathan points out that we carry a huge burden of debt, that we’ve enacted a slew of “fee” increases (FASTER, dirty dozen) recently, and we’re still not a right to work state. All of those count as negatives towards growing economically and thus, contribute to our slide down the rankings.

We had the good fortune to have co-author Jonathan Williams in town at an event here at the Independence Institute Freedom Embassy last week. Fast thinking Fiscal Policy Center director Penn Pfiffner grabbed Jonathan for a quick podcast on the latest edition of Rich States, Poor States. You can find the podcast over on here.

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Hi! We’re Painfully Average!

Posted by on Mar 14 2012 | Economy, Government Largess,, PPC, TABOR, Taxes

There is a strong narrative surrounding the tax burden here in Colorado. Unlike some popular narratives repeated by the media, this one is almost half true. It goes a little something like this:

Colorado is a low tax state. From the beginning, our state government has asked very little of us. Which makes a lot of sense considering we’re all just a bunch of independent cowboys anyway. But this self-reliance, earn-your-own-way thinking went a little too far recently with the likes of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and Arveschoug-Bird. Now our state is in a world of hurt compared to other states with higher revenues. We simply do not tax people enough…

Or something like that. You get the idea.

Anyway, like I said, that is almost half true. We decided to exploit some free labor of ours last year and put this popular narrative to the test. Under the guidance of our Fiscal Policy Center Director Penn Pfiffner, we had intern Anthony Gonzalez collect a ton of tax data and compare our tax burdens with the rest of the country. Aside from the difficulty in finding the tax data, there was another rather surprising twist we uncovered: WE’RE AVERAGE. Yup, it’s that simple. We aren’t special in any way whatsoever. We are just a bunch of average Joe’s, getting taxed like half the country and not taxed like the other half.

If you’d like to read how average we are, check out Anthony’s Issue Paper, “How Colorado’s Tax Burdens Rank Nationally.” If you’d like to hear even more about the paper in audio form, listen to this podcast with Penn Pfiffner and Anthony.

You might be wondering why the popular narrative is almost half right. Well, the narrative the way I usually hear it explicitly cites our low STATE tax burden. And that part is true. But it fails to consider the rest of the equation. It fails to consider the LOCAL tax burdens we Coloradans face. It’s in that part of the equation where we make up the ground we need to be stuck right in the middle – at 26th in the nation (where being #1 really sucks). Thus, with a relatively low state tax burden and a relatively high local tax burden, we end up in the middle on a per capita basis. The way I see it, we Coloradans are taxed at a lower rate pretty much any time we do anything at all, so it adds up.

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On Lobato, Joshua Dunn It Again

Posted by on Jan 19 2012 | education, Government Largess, PPC, TABOR, Taxes

UCCS Professor Joshua Dunn can’t help himself. He can’t believe the audacity of Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport’s decision in the epic saga we know as the Lobato case. He’s been sounding the alarm on this ruling ever since it came down last month. If you haven’t heard Professor Dunn’s argument yet, here are a couple great resources. First, you can listen to our podcast featuring Professor Dunn and our Education Policy analyst Ben DeGrow. They hit the airwaves shortly after Judge Rappaport’s ruling came down. Additionally, Joshua wrote an op-ed for us that hit the Colorado Springs Gazette’s opinion pages last night. In both venues, Professor Dunn argues that Judge Rappaport disregarded the totality of our state constitution when deciding the Lobato case. Instead, she chose just the sections that suited her worldview and threw out all the inconvenient stuff. Joshua says her decision was entirely political, not constitutional.

AG John Suthers sat in front of the Joint Budget Committee yesterday to discuss the Lobato case and its potential time frame. He indicated that he believed it could be a full year before we’ve reached any resolution. That seems hardly adequate considering we’re dealing with a large chunk of the state’s budget. How can we plan for the future when Lobato threatens to eat away a majority of our general fund?

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What’s Up With Our Budget? FREE Event!

Posted by on Oct 03 2011 | Citizens' Budget, Events, PPC, TABOR, Taxes

We have a brand new event for you guys on our state’s long-term budget woes. We know you’ve heard about DU’s budget study and our Citizens’ Budget report, but have you heard both perspectives in the same room at the same time?!? Probably not! Here is the information for our upcoming event next Tuesday the 11th.

Colorado’s Long-Term Budget Dilemma: Two Perspectives

Penn Pfiffner, Independence Institute Fiscal Policy Center Director and Citizen’s Budget Author will offer his budget perspective based on the findings of our Citizens Budget project.

Phyllis Resnick, principal economist for DU’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Future will offer DU’s recent findings on Colorado’s budget from their report Financing Colorado’s Future: An Analysis of the Fiscal Sustainability of State Government.

October 11, 2011
2 P.M. to 4 P.M.
At the Denver Press Club
1330 Glenarm Place
Denver, Colorado

Admission is FREE! Advance reservation is required. RSVP online to Mary MacFarlane at
Or call Mary at 303-279-6536, ext. 102

Hope to see you there!

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Independence Files Amicus Opposing TABOR Lawsuit

Posted by on Sep 08 2011 | Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, History, PPC, TABOR

Governor Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers have teamed up to challenge the lawsuit against our Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). I’ve discussed earlier why this lawsuit isn’t just about bringing down TABOR. It’s about trying to bring down the whole citizen initiative process. To help the cause, the Independence Institute filed an amicus brief (friend of the court) opposing the lawsuit and encouraging dismissal. Much of the content of the amicus comes from Rob Natelson’s research into what the Founders meant when they used the words “republican form of government.” Rob discusses the brief in a blog post he wrote on Additionally, Rob sat down with one of my minions to record a podcast on the subject. You can find the podcast over on Editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, Wayne Laugesen, read our amicus brief and described it as masterful. Thanks Wayne!

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