Will TBD Up The Ante? It All Depends on Hickenlooper

As the Durango Herald’s Jordyn Dahl reports:

Leaders of TBD Colorado say the key finding of the initiative is that Colorado’s economy is “unsustainable without major fiscal and constitutional reforms.”

The eight-member board of directors of To Be Determined Colorado released its recommendations Wednesday to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who established the initiative to determine a grand plan for the state.

The board based its recommendations on 70 public meetings with 1,200 Coloradans across the state during the last year. The initiative, which had a budget of $1.2 million and was funded by donations, focused on five issues: education, health, transportation, state budget and state workforce.

Opponents of TBD Colorado said the initiative was a way for Hickenlooper to lay the groundwork for a tax increase. While the recommendations do not directly call for tax increases, it does say revenue options have to be weighed against public services Coloradans want. [Pols emphasis]

Here’s what the summary report from TBD Colorado itself says:

In recent years, the state’s revenues have not kept pace with the underlying growth in the Colorado economy because many of the fastest-growing sectors are either exempt from tax or are taxed at a lower rate than other sectors. Even though Colorado’s revenues are now increasing as the economy begins to recover, the state will be unable to grow its way out of the coming fiscal gridlock unless structural changes are made. Projected demographic shifts, such as an aging population and the increased medical costs that flow from that, will only accelerate the stresses on the state’s budget.

Respecting the role of Colorado voters, who have ultimate authority on increasing taxes, revenue options must be weighed against public services Coloradans wish to receive.

We haven’t had much to say about Gov. John Hickenlooper’s TBD Colorado initiative, because there hasn’t been much to say. Hickenlooper’s administration convened these facilitated meetings all over the state as their way of taking the citizenry’s pulse on a wide variety of fiscal issues, as well as asking what essential services citizens expect the government to provide.

The TBD Colorado initiative takes place against a backdrop of a known and very bleak fiscal reality for the state of Colorado. As a recent study by the University of Denver determined, revenues in Colorado are structurally insufficient to provide even the present level of services to the state’s growing population. By 2025, that study indicated the state will be billions short of basic needs. In addition, the Lobato education funding lawsuit has exposed a lack of “rational relationship” between the state’s funding mechanism for public education and the constitutional requirement to provide a “thorough and uniform” education to all students.

Bottom line: Republicans are increasingly wary of the TBD Colorado initiative, because it is just the latest in a series of findings that the state’s fiscal situation is not sustainable–and the only solution, once all efficiencies and waste have been squeezed out of the system, is to increase revenue. We’ve said it a hundred times, and we’ll say it again: Colorado’s tax burden is significantly below the national average, and that low tax burden has a direct relationship to the state’s chronic inability to fund essential services. Something has to give.

It will be up to Hickenlooper turn his focus groups into a tangible plan of action. After the humiliating defeat of Proposition 103 in 2011, a defeat largely attributed to the failure of Democrats like Hickenlooper to invest their political capital in investing in education, it’s clearer than ever what the key ingredient in any real solution is going to be.

And that ingredient is leadership.

12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Automaticftp says:

    It was the wrong answer.  Voters rejected it because it was only a band-aid, not a real fix.  There’s no appetite for a short term fix that only made it harder to fix things on a long-term basis.

    I applaud Sen. Heath’s efforts on 103, but I think it was a huge miscalculation politically.

  2. IOnCO says:

    Getting Chickenlooper to take a firm position on something like this.

    He didn’t have the backbone to stand up to an old fuddy duddy neighborhood group like CHUN on the Colorado History Museum (which has left us with the very cool McNicholas Building [a former Carnegie Library and under-appreciated architectural building] as a LAME ASS event space) when he was the Mayor. The Mayor of Denver – you know, someone with actual power and executive authority. There are countless other examples, btw, but it’s clear to me that the writers and readers of this blog don’t have any deep interest in local politics or we’d see more actual news and opinion instead of constant MSM regurgitation. . .  

    If it isn’t easy or isn’t revolving around energy production Chicken won’t stand for anything but climbing the ladder.

  3. allyncooper says:

    The more comprehensive fix would have been the graduated income tax proposals of the Fiscal Policy Institute but that was shelved due to perceived lack of support, no doubt the right decision given the resounding defeat of 103. But that’s what is needed, just have to find the political will to do it.

    ….many of the fastest-growing sectors are either exempt from tax or are taxed at a lower rate than other sectors.

    Sounds like some big loopholes need to be looked at also.  

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    about  “appetites” . . .

    Is TBD sure that the majority of Coloradans are finally hungry for some fiscal sanity, or that there’s merely a handful of nibblers?

  5. caroman says:

    I’ve promoted these three tax revenue ideas for a few years.  Perhaps now is time to act:

    1) Eliminate $100,000 Colorado Capital Gain Exclusion.  Savings: $18 million per year.

    2) Limit Pension Deduction to those earning less than $250,000 per year.  Savings: $9 million per year.

    3) Limit Tuition Contribution Deduction to those earning less than $250,000 per year.  Savings: over $3 million per year.

    I’d be happy to provide details if anyone is interested.

  6. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Let me suggest that you’re both right.

    Band-Aids have passed before. Referendum C was a Band-Aid. I think in retrospect you’re right, and Prop 103 wasn’t enough of a solution and some on the left didn’t support it for that reason. But I also think it would have done better if Democrats had gotten behind it like they did with Ref C. Heck, it might have gotten GOP support because they knew it was a limited measure. Proponents never said it was anything more.

    If everybody wants to dump on Rollie now and look to Hickenlooper for the Big Fix, cool, but he’d damn well better deliver. That’s what the Guvs are saying and they’re right on.

  7. Automaticftp says:

    Just have to say this – I know Sen. Heath, and I hope I didn’t come across as “dumping” on him.  He has taken two for the team – running for governor and 103.  He’s a good man and we’re lucky to have him here (which I don’t say about too many people!).  

    The problems in the state require fundamental constitutional changes – our budget is totally unsustainable as things now stand.  We need to revisit Amendment 23 and Gallagher – there’s no other way around it, since I don’t see taxpayers ever voting to get rid of TABOR.  

    It would help if Gov. Hickenlooper would take a strong stand and work to get the necessary changes on the ballot, and to campaign hard for them.  If a .37% increase in our state income tax is going to kill the state, as the GOP would have people believe, then we have even bigger problems than anyone can see.

  8. IOnCO says:

    Will also require voters to act. . . not certain about 23. Quite certain about the leadership quotient (as you can read in my post below), though.

  9. gaf says:

    the inevitable effect of “revisiting” Amendment 23 is to reduce funding for K-12 education. It would simply take from underfunded K-12 and put it elsewhere. End of story.

    (And I don’t want that.)

  10. gertie97 says:

    Voters will not okay raising their own property taxes. Ever.

  11. IOnCO says:

    See Denver (and other metro area counties passing all of theirs too) passing 2A (seriously bad policy) and 3A (the best of the bunch) AND 3B (bloated and suspect). And just because I’m Denver-centric don’t overlook the fact (that I wrote) that most (if not all??) of the tax increases in the metro area passed. . . .

  12. IOnCO says:

    I focused on the Denver initiatives because I know for certain that they’re all property tax increases and that they damn sure all passed. Further, in the spirit of anonymous transparency (HA!); I voted no on 2A and 3B and yes on 3A. . .  

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