Archive for the 'Taxes' Category

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 www.KidsAreFirst.org 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. KidsAreFirst.org 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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Ed Tax Hike Proponents Revive 49th in Spending Lie

Posted by on Jul 05 2013 | education, Taxes

Why are proponents of a statewide billion-dollar education tax initiative clinging to a repeatedly debunked untruth? Petition gatherers for the group Colorado Commits are wearing shirts that say: “Colorado, 49th in Education Spending.” One young man clad in the shirt said only Alabama ranked lower. The problem is neither statement turns out to be true. And campaign organizers should know better. Writing last August for Colorado Watchdog, Ben DeGrow directly took Colorado Commits to task for several other misstatements of school funding facts. But now they’re literally wearing a fallacy he has refuted time after time.

It started seven years ago with his Independence Institute publication “Counting the Cash” (also updated in 2008), which showed how the already-outdated “49th” statistic measured spending as a share of personal income. One of the best ways to increase Colorado’s ranking would be to banish some of the highest earners from the state. If you go by that same logic today, we fall at either 43rd or 47th. “Counting the Cash” also identified at least 10 different states that year which claimed to be 49th in education funding. On his own blog, DeGrow debunked the fallacy in 2007 and in 2008. The Institute’s Ed Is Watching blog stepped up to demolish the myth in 2009, and again in 2012.

Several different sources measure education dollars and cents. They say Colorado ranks somewhere between 26th and 40th nationally in per-pupil spending. Among neighboring states in our region, Colorado stands at or above average. Depending on which source you consult, we spend somewhere between $8,724 and $10,783 a year per student—and those numbers don’t include construction costs, debt financing, or deferred pension promises that taxpayers must fund. Colorado’s decades of pre-Great Recession K-12 spending increases typically were not as big as many other states, leaving us below the average in financial outputs but toward the front of the pack in student learning results. While Colorado clearly is not 49th in education funding, the unanswered question remains: How much money is enough?

This article originally appeared on Complete Colorado’s Page 2, July 4, 2013.

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27 Ways Obamacare Increases Our Premiums

Posted by on Jun 27 2013 | Health Care, health control law, obama, obamacare, Regulation, Taxes

Serious question: Is there any reasonable person out there who truly believes that ObamaCare will reduce health care costs and insurance premiums? And by reasonable, I mean someone who can point to some evidence for their belief, not just some command and control fanboy. After all, even Jonathan Gruber, one of Obama’s architects for the health control law, admits that health insurance premiums in Colorado would rise 19% under ObamaCare.

It seems so obvious to those of us who understand the most basic of economics. When you centralize an entire industry and impose a top-down scheme of price controls and subsidies, the once functioning market place no longer functions. Why? Because free people are not acting freely anymore. Individuals within that scheme are no longer making free choices. Therefore, there is no market. It’s just a bunch of people being forced to buy and sell goods and services. Forcing is not trading.

It’s no wonder that under these circumstances health insurance premiums in Colorado will rise under ObamaCare. Health Care Policy Center director Linda Gorman gives 27 concrete reasons why this is the case in her new Issue Backgrounder. Or as she likes to put it, “Here are 27 specific reasons why the law is the problem.”

Please share this information with the people you know who are still skeptical about the destructive effects of ObamaCare. Show them the difference between a functioning market and top-down central planning.

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Welcome To Colorado, 26th In State And Local Tax Burden

Posted by on May 22 2013 | Economy, Politics, Taxes

You might think that a self-proclaimed “economic development expert” would have a solid grasp of the levels of taxation in Colorado. You might be wrong.

In a recent Denver Post guest opinion column making a case for a two-tiered state income-tax rate, former state representative and executive director of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade Don Marostica makes the claim that Colorado ranks 45th in combined state and local taxation. Mr. Marostica did not cite any source for this claim. Here is the what he wrote:

For state taxes paid per $1,000 of income, Colorado ranks 48th. When state and local taxes are combined, Colorado is still near the bottom at 45th, below Texas and all our other neighboring states.

But according to the the meticulously sourced and cited 2012 Independence Institute study, “How Colorado’s Tax Burdens Rank Nationally,” Colorado is 26th in the nation for combined state and local tax burdens…hardly “near the bottom” in terms of paying taxes. From the study:

Colorado ranks 26th nationally, compared to all other states for the combined state and local tax burden, on a per capita basis.

You can read the study here.

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Transportation One-Two Punch

Posted by on May 06 2013 | Economics, Taxes, Transportation

With all the focus on guns, it’s easy to forget about all the other areas the Colorado legislature effects our daily lives – like transportation. Transportation policy has been one of my pet issues for quite sometime. As you may recall, I used to be chairman of the RTD board (see, I’ve got some street cred).

Some important things to note: First, the big light-rail boondoggle moves forward with the recent opening of RTD’s West line. You may have read that it came under budget, but of course that’s not true. It actually costs more than double what they estimated back in 1997. Not to mention it will service less people than originally proposed, making it the perfect combination of a government program: Over budget with less benefits. You can read more about the boondoggle in this Complete Colorado Page 2 editorial, “Light-rail boondoggle moves money instead of people,” from Brian Schwartz and Randal O’Toole.

Speaking of Brian Schwartz… he’s been on fire in relation to transportation these days. Not only did he help write that fantastic editorial for Complete Colorado, he was also quoted in this morning’s Denver Post. In an article describing how the state can now use road money for virtually anything transit related (totally unconstitutional by the way), Brian is quoted as the lone voice in opposition (go figure).

Keep it up Brian, we – and our cars – need you fighting the good fight.

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