Archive for the 'Taxes' Category

Urban Renewal and Littleton’s Ballot Measure 300

Posted by on Feb 13 2015 | debt, Economics, Regulation, Taxes, Video

Mike Krause intro’s former Littleton mayor Doug Clark’s explanation of why gambling with taxpayer money on real estate is almost always a bad idea in this short 1 minute video.

Littleton voters will be able to have a say on whether government uses their money to get into the land speculation business with Ballot Measure 300.

To learn more about tax increment financing (TIFs), urban renewal authorities (URAs), and Littleton Ballot Measure 300, watch the full Devils Advocate episode below.

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Do you have a minute? For our Freedom Minute?

Posted by on Jan 29 2015 | Economics, education, Regulation, Taxes, Video

We just got a cool new green screen here at the Independence Institute offices so…. we decided to make one minute, editorial videos. Cause why not?

You can find all of our Freedom Minute’s on our YouTube channel, IITV.

Here are the first few that we’ve done:

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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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What Made Tuesday’s Election Victories Possible

Posted by on Nov 08 2013 | education, elections, Taxes

Alright. Here’s my terrible analogy. Really, I don’t think it’s all that good, so please let me know if the point gets across.

Have you ever seen a house being built? They get the framing up, and then it looks like everything just stalls. I mean there’s like no progress, but you still see guys just milling around. And then one day, out of seemingly nowhere, the drywall goes up, and you think, “Wow, look at all that progress; it all happened overnight!”

Well, Tuesday night’s amazing election victories might seem like that, too. Amendment 66 went down to defeat by a 2 to 1 vote, and school reformers won in Dougco, Jeffco, and Loveland school boards. Wow, all that happened overnight!

What you might not have seen at the house being built were all the small and crucial tasks that MUST be completed before the drywall goes up — electricians running wires, plumbers laying pipe, HVAC guys bending sheet metal for vents, and so on. From a distance, you don’t really see any of that work,but you sure notice when the walls go up. It looks like big movement.

Conservatives, especially in Colorado, lose and lose and lose because they keep trying to put up the walls before doing the prep work first. That prep work takes years, it’s hard, it’s often boring, and it takes resources.

We at the Independence Institute are in the business of doing that political prep work. And I think folks just might be starting to get it. Without the coalition building, detailed policy work, investigative news reporting, community organizing, and educational efforts that we do, victory simply is not possible.

Take for example the story of Douglas County School District. This district, the third largest school district in the state, was the first in the nation to implement a voucher program on its own and basically de-certified its union among many other great reforms. And on Tuesday, despite a massive influx of national union money to defeat the reform candidates, Douglas County residents gave them a “thumbs up” and re-elected them.

The prep work you might not have seen started over six years ago when our education policy stars, Pam Benigno and Ben DeGrow, started working with school board members in the minority. In 2009, we worked with the new candidates before they were elected and then continued to provide assistance as they carefully crafted and implemented their reforms. Starting a year ago, we brought in community organizers and implemented a door-to-door, face-to-face educational campaign to educate the voters in Douglas County, so they could better understand the impact of these powerful reforms. When the battle to re-elect these reformers came, the prep work was done.

Well before Governor Hickenlooper launched his campaign to raise Colorado income taxes by 27% with Amendment 66, we had already been working on our “Kids Are First” educational campaign. The goal was to show that throwing even more money into a failed system was helping unions and monopolies, not children. We advocated raising expectations, not taxes.

But it was the years of work before that, building relationships and coalitions, investigating the phone conversations between the Guv and Michael Bloomberg, detailing how to get a billion dollars more out of our state budget without a tax increase with our “Citizen’s Budget,” and building a network of freedom fighters around the state that made the difference. The prep work took years. The loss of Amendment 66 was a formality.

For those who invest in and are part of our long, slow, methodical political prep work, well, I just can’t thank you enough. You made Tuesday’s victories possible.

Now back to more prep work…

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Forget Waldo. Where’s Hick?

Posted by on Oct 24 2013 | Amendment 66, Economy, education, elections, Taxes

When it comes to raising debt and taxes, John Hickenlooper is a rainmaker. As mayor of Denver, he jumped out of airplanes to poke a hole in TABOR, wore a blue bear suit for tourism taxes, rode the trolley for RTD’s Fastracks boondoggle, walked with Sesame Street-like letters A through I to raise property taxes and money for Pro-comp for Denver teachers, and a new jail…

Now, in his first foray into tax hikes as governor, he is AWOL. He has worked the phones to pull in millions for the Amendment 66 campaign and said nice things about this 27.4% income tax hike at public events, but he has been missing in action when it comes to taking the lead in selling it. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

In his past anti-taxpayer conquests, he was able to build a broard coalition of diverse organizations and bipartisan support. But not a single elected Republican supports 66. His usual partners in crime at the Denver Metro Chamber won’t even stand by him. Business groups like the NFIB and Colorado Concern have endorsed a “No” vote. Even Left-leaning editorial boards like the Fort Collins Coloradoan urge defeat.

Without the comfort of the herd, Hick seems content to play only a supporting, backroom fundraising role. Could it be that, after his debacle taking Michael Bloomberg’s advice on gun control (which cost him two senate seats), angering rural Colorado with a renewable energy mandate, and being unwilling or unable to make a decision on clemency for mass-killer Nathan Dunlap, Hick wants distance from another potential embarrassing loss?

Well, we can’t stay quiet and MIA like Hick. The Independence Institute has taken the lead in spreading the truth about Amendment 66. In fact, our work has made it up to our friends on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Their lead editorial today warns: “Democrats and unions try to kill Colorado’s flat tax.”

Our educational effort is called Kids Are First. I urge you to go to right now. There, you’ll see many resources, including the videos we’ve been airing on television. Please share this site with everyone you know. Unlike Hick’s team, we don’t have $7 million+ to get the word out.

And our scholars have been busy actually READING this 150 page monstrosity. Learn about their findings:

Ben DeGrow’s Issue Paper: Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced

Ben’s op-ed: Tax Hike Won’t Deliver on its promise

Linda Gorman’s Issue Paper:
A Billion Dollars Worth of Bad Ideas: Amendment 66 Tax Hike

Linda’s Issue Backgrounder: Amendment 66: Spend More, Get Less

My debate with Senator Michael Johnston: 9News video

You know the whole country is still reeling from the last bill we “had to pass to see what’s inside of it.” Amendment 66 is Colorado’s version.

Please get involved in sharing the word. The wallet you save may be your own.

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VIDEO: Prop AA – Big Taxes for Legal Marijuana

Posted by on Oct 16 2013 | Drug Policy, Idiot Box (TV Show), Taxes

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Amendment 66 Resources: Billion Dollar Ed Tax Hike

Posted by on Oct 07 2013 | education, Taxes, Video

There may be a lot of information out there about the enormous tax increase (“for the children”) called Amendment 66, but most of what you’ve heard is probably wrong. Our job at the Independence Institute is to give you the facts about this tax increase – how it affects families, working people, small business, and the children of Colorado. Below you’ll find some important Amendment 66 resources, from big to small.

The big:

Our scholars have written two important papers about Amendment 66. Linda Gorman’s fiscally focused Issue Paper titled, A Billion Dollars Worth of Bad Ideas: The Amendment 66 Tax Hike Leaves Kids and Teachers Behind, Harms Colorado’s Working Families, Enriches a Broken Bureaucracy is great companion piece to Senior Education Policy Analyst Ben DeGrow’s Issue Backgrounder titled, Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced. Linda’s will give you the low down on the enormous financial burden a billion dollar tax hike will be on our state, while Ben’s focuses more on the lack of education reform in the A66 bait and switch.

The small:

Ben also penned a fantastic overview article on Complete Colorado’s Page Two, appropriately titled, Rather than Amendment 66, How About Some Real Reform?

And because there are people like me who… don’t read good… Linda decided to come up with a one page Issue Backgrounder called Amendment 66: Spend More, Get Less with lots of pretty pictures and graphs. Even I can understand it! Job well done Linda!

Our Constitution scholar Rob Natelson wrote an op-ed about the absolute constitutional nightmare Amendment 66 is, titled Amendment 66 mutilates state constitution, enriches greedy bureaucracy.

Even though we didn’t write it, we have to mention a fantastic editorial from the Colorado Springs Gazette. In Teachers unions support massive tax hike, oppose modest reforms in Amendment 66, editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen goes after teachers unions for putting a tax increase (big money) ahead of real education reform (our children). Here’s a sample of Wayne’s critique,

This isn’t the first time supporters of this tax have tried to hoodwink the public. Before exposing the hush-hush lawsuit arrangement, The Gazette revealed how the Legislature’s Democratic majority quietly sat on a $1 billion-plus revenue surplus this year without substantive new education spending. They did so to create an illusion of school poverty, so voters might be fooled into approving the tax hike.

Learn about REAL education reform: The Independence Institute just launched a project we call Kids Are First. is a direct response to Amendment 66, with a motto that says it all – “Raise expectations, not taxes.” There are plenty of ways to improve education in Colorado, but raising taxes is not one of them.

And last but not least, the videos:

Here are two videos produced by the Education Policy Center that explore some alternatives for quality education in Colorado that have nothing to do with taxing hard working families a billion dollars.

Colorado K-12 Scholarships Gives Kids Hope

K-12 Scholarship Tax Credits Could Help Colorado Kids

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Colorado’s Billion-Dollar Tax Hike Proposal: Really Bad Constitution-Writing

Posted by on Sep 24 2013 | Amendment 66, Constitutional Amendments, Economics, Economy, education, Initiative 22, Politics, Taxes

Hear Justin Longo’s interview with Rob on Amendment 66 here.

Colorado’s Amendment 66—the billion dollar tax hike—is a constitutional monstrosity.

Amendment 66 is, technically, not entirely a constitutional amendment. It is an unusual hybrid of constitutional amendment and change in the state tax law. The secretary of state refers to it as Initiative 22, and it is on the ballot this fall.

The constitutional change would lock in a hugely-disproportionate share of state spending for a single program at the expense of every other Colorado service, public or private. The statutory change would impose a big hike in the state income tax.

As explained below, the costs across a wide range of areas—including public health and safety—could be immense.

But before we get to that, just think of how unfair this measure is:

Under its rules, everything else would take a back seat to the demands of the school bureaucracy. Law enforcement would suffer. So would disaster relief, parks, the environment, services for the elderly, health care, our universities, not to mention economic investment and the taxpayers’ own needs.

Why? Because Amendment 66/Initiative 22 says that (with a sinister refinement explained below) the state school bureaucracy “shall, at a minimum, receive forty-three percent of sales, excise, and income tax revenue collected in the general fund.” In other words, it requires that we spend nearly half our state general fund for a single service before funding anything else!

And that 43% is only a floor. Amendment 66 demands even more. Here’s why:

* The 43% is in addition to what we pay in property taxes.

* The statutory part adds a steep income tax hike on top of that and gives all he revenue to the school bureaucracy.

* The 43% is calculated on what the older, lower tax rates would have brought in. But an income tax of, say, 20% yields less than 20% more revenue, because of disincentives and tax avoidance. So the 43% is calculated on the older, richer system, not on the newer, poorer one.

Now consider some of the other consequences:

* Because of the 43% strait jacket, the legislature couldn’t freely reallocate existing revenue to new needs. For example, the Denver Post has reported that due in part to funding limitations for supervision, inmates released on parole often commit new crimes, including murder. Yet Amendment 66 would make re-allocating funds to parole supervisions that much harder, thereby endangering the lives and safety of Colorado citizens.

* That means a primary way of allocating revenue would become more tax increases.

* We would be crippled in adjusting school costs to reflect changes in technology or to promote educational accountability. Even if schools don’t do the job or are using money wastefully, they still get their guaranteed cut. This violates a basic principle of Anglo-American constitutionalism: agencies are responsible to the legislature for what they do with appropriated funds.

* State income taxes would jump for everyone—by over 27% for everyone with a taxable income of more than $75,000, and 8% for everyone else.

* And the cost of living would rise for every family in the state—including and especially the poor. This is because tax increases–even they seem to hit only the “rich”—have a way of seeping through an economy like venom. Almost everyone pays in the form of higher prices, lower incomes, and fewer jobs. A tax hike, like water, runs downhill.

* Higher taxes also weaken the entire economy. Don’t be misled on this score: The studies show that the additional spending mandated by Amendment 66 is likely to harm much more than it helps.

* The state income tax hike could wound Colorado’s economic competitiveness and kill Colorado jobs—a serious concern right now. Remember that we are in economic competition with other states and other countries, and several of our neighbors either don’t have an income tax or are cutting, reducing, or phasing out the income taxes they have.

* Colorado’s current tax may look like a flat rate, but because of the base on which it is calculated it is actually somewhat punitive as to income. Amendment 66 would make it much more so. Tax hikes like that have been shown to be particularly damaging to prosperity.

* Because the 43% guarantee is based on revenue from former, lower tax rates, the Amendment 66 insulates the school bureaucracy from the economic damage imposed by the tax hike.

A good constitution protects individual rights and structures government to serve the interests of all. But Amendment 66 mutilates our state constitution to privilege the greedy few. It transfers more money to the bureaucracy to do things that will hurt the general welfare, including the welfare of our children.

This violates every principle of good constitution-writing.

* * * *
P.S.: Here’s the ultimate irony: For years advocates of this money-grab have attacked Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), claiming it unduly restricts the legislature. Yet now they want to constrict the legislature far more than TABOR does. Hypocrisy, anyone?

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Unfair and Overpriced: Billion Dollar Tax Hike Hell

Posted by on Aug 28 2013 | Capitol Crazies, education, Taxes

If there wasn’t a good enough reason already to be opposed to Amendment 66, also known as the billion dollar take away, senior education policy analyst Ben DeGrow provides some solid proof in this Independence Institute Issue Backgrounder – Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced. Here’s a little something to whet your appetite,

Amendment 66 promises to redistribute wealth and create new inequities rather than to provide better operation of schools and delivery of instruction. Starting at a billion dollars per year, Colorado parents and other taxpayers deserve more.

Here’s the PDF file.

Read it, print it out (one page, front and back), and share with everyone you know who cares to keep their money.

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