So You Don’t Like Toll Roads? Well…

U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project.

U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project.

The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela has a story up today about the long-term shortage of federal funds for transportation projects, and what that’s forcing states like Colorado to do to provide for the infrastructure needed to sustain economic growth–not to mention keeping your commute from driving you totally insane:

Congress faces a July 31 deadline to pass legislation addressing the country’s transportation needs. But recent history suggests lawmakers will fall short of passing a long-term funding bill, instead opting for yet another stopgap measure.

Over the last six years, Congress has passed short-term transportation funding extensions 33 times.

The temporary funding measures are unsustainable, Mendez said, if Congress intends to repair roads and bridges…

[Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez] called on Congress to take action on the Grow America Act, a six-year, $478 billion highway funding bill supported by President Obama and Mendez’ boss, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

According to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, passage of the Grow America Act would bump Colorado transportation funding up 20%, with an even bigger increase for transit projects. As you can imagine, though, the measure is going nowhere in the Republican-controlled Congress:

“There’s difficulty getting it through the Republican House right now, which is sort of par for the course,” said Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who represents the 7th Congressional District.

The U.S. Senate has introduced a more modest bipartisan proposal, cosponsored by GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, that would increase transportation funds by a smaller amount via a relatively gimmicky incentive for corporations to repatriate overseas earnings at favorable tax rates. Anything would help, of course, but the huge long-term deficit in funding for transportation projects, both to maintain current infrastructure and to provide for the future, is much bigger than what Gardner’s bill would provide for.

But there’s another big difference between the two proposals: the President’s bill relies on provisions that Coloradans may not like, even though they are being embraced by cash-strapped Colorado transportation officials right now. The Grow America Act would significantly ease restrictions on tolling of existing interstate highways, as well as encourage so-called “public-private partnerships” to build new transportation projects. In Colorado, the new U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project is an example of what the future would look like under the Grow America Act–new infrastructure, but at a significant long term cost and loss of control:

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Koch –funded “Nonprofit” Stomps Down Hard on Health Care Initiative

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You’ve probably never heard of Initiative 20….unless you listen to right wing talk radio, or hang out on right wing websites. Then, you might believe that Initiative 20 is a Communist plot to ration your health care, run all private insurors out of Colorado, take away your Medicaid, and generally make your life miserable.

Colorado Care? Yes!

Initiative 20, the ColoradoCareYes plan, is the beginning of the end of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in Colorado, and Koch-funded attack groups are trying to stop it before it begins.

Republicans, after having tried to repeal the ACA 54 times, (but still having no plan to replace it) should be rejoicing that a coalition of groups in Colorado, inspired by Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D, is promoting an alternative to the ACA.  I mean really…the end of mandates? The end of Obama’s name on your health care plan? No price discrimination against rural consumers? No deductibles? It’s a Tea Party dream!

In the original ACA legislation is an “innovation” provision, article 1332, which allows states to opt out of the ACA, if they can prove that their own programs have as good or better outcomes for consumers. The ColoradoCare plan as written would be simpler, more fair, and less expensive than the ACA.

Instead of rejoicing that Democrats are accomplishing their goal of replacing the ACA, however, Republican operatives and organizations quickly stomped on the rollout of Initiative 20 with a Koch-brothers funded website, and talk radio diatribes about how the ColoradoCareYES Initiative must be stopped.

Some background information: (more…)

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 8)

MoreSmarter-RainWe’ll be happy to break down the ramifications of elections in the United Kingdom as soon as we figure out how the whole thing works. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► With the 2015 Colorado legislative session now officially in the books, all eyes turn to Gov. John Hickenlooper and, more specifically, his writing instrument of choice. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Hickenlooper may veto two red-light camera bills and is taking a close look at a few more pieces of legislation. The House Speaker, meanwhile, joined Hickenlooper in voicing displeasure over the demise of TABOR reform efforts:

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder said she will keep alive a Hickenlooper-endorsed plan to remove the fees paid by hospitals from state revenue collections to make room for more transportation and education funding within the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights spending limits.

“That’s one of the things I’m the most sorry about that did not pass out of the Senate,” the Boulder Democrat said. “We are facing a budget crisis without finding a way to address our revenues coming up against the TABOR cap.”

► The Associated Press has its own take on the 2015 legislative session, calling it “among the most sharply partisan in recent memory.”

 ►Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are calling for more congressional oversight in the Aurora VA Hospital project. Once again, we remind you, that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the CHAIRMAN OF THE NONOVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE under the House Veterans’ Affairs committee.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Are Colorado PERA Negotiations Being Influenced by Federal Politics?

(clockwise from top): U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

(clockwise from top):
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported late yesterday on a troubling political strategy from Republicans that intertwines state and federal politics:

Intense negotiations are underway at the state Capitol to try to revive a Denver Public Schools pension bill that critics claim was killed by Republicans because of former DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet’s Senate re-election bid.

House Bill 1251 is important for DPS because it would allow the district to quit paying around $23 million more a year into the state pension fund than other school districts…

Three people with knowledge of the bill told The Denver Post that they talked about it with Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who said national Republicans didn’t want to see a bill passed that potentially could help Bennet. Hill briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014. [Pols emphasis]

Hill responded Thursday that his chief concern is that PERA is a “real ticking time bomb,” but he acknowledged people told him they had concerns about “some bad deals that were cut” when Bennet oversaw Denver schools.

Bennet’s financial dealings at DPS were an issue in his 2010 Senate primary. “Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt,” read a headline in The New York Times. Republicans have said they plan to revisit the issue on the campaign trail next year.

For his part, State Senate “PresidentBill Cadman says that he has “never” talked to the Republican Party or “anyone in Washington” about HB-1251, although it’s difficult to say how much people are really listening to Cadman anyway.

We won’t get into the policy discussion of the relative merits of HB-1251 and PERA reforms here (Colorado Pols is a political blog, after all), but the idea that Colorado legislation might be torpedoed because of how it might harm the re-election chances of a U.S. Senator is more than a little troubling. It also speaks, again, to the leadership structure surrounding Colorado Republicans. If this story proves true, it seriously calls into question how much Senate Republicans are even making their own decisions locally.

Doug “Mr. TABOR” Bruce Strikes Again–Literally

Doug Bruce.

Former Republican Rep. Doug Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, has been in the news a great deal lately as allegations of shady real-estate deals and unmaintained rental properties pile up around himself and his associates. Bruce’s handoff of property for which he owes the city of Colorado Springs thousands of dollars in a court judgment to city councilwoman Helen Collins has caused a significant scandal, recently compounded by revelations about blighted apartment buildings in Kansas City owned by Collins and “managed” by Bruce.

Earlier this month, Bruce was in court for multiple alleged probation violations stemming in part from the above-described events. “Mr. TABOR” was convicted in 2011 of felony tax evasion, and among other offenses his business dealings with Helen Collins may well constitute violations of the terms of his release. Bruce has his next court hearing in June to face those allegations.

But as the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, Bruce’s court visit on April 10th has netted him fresh legal troubles of a different kind:

An arrest warrant for assault has been issued in Denver for Douglas Bruce, the author of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, after an incident following a court appearance earlier this month.

The warrant was signed by a judge and issued out of the county’s court on Sunday, records show. The court clerk’s office says the warrant is for a municipal assault offense.

Bruce is accused of assault at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse on April 10 where a video shows him grabbing a cell phone out of the hands of Dede Laugesen, executive director of Colorado Springs Government Watch. Bruce was leaving the courthouse following a hearing in which prosecutors accused him of violating his probation in his 2012 tax evasion conviction.

During Bruce’s brief tenure as the representative of Colorado House District 15 back in 2008, he was given a rare censure by the House after kicking a Rocky Mountain News reporter on the opening day of the legislative session. That incident was a major factor in the later GOP primary against Bruce won by Rep. Mark Waller.

As we’ve said on a number of occasions, Doug Bruce is not a nice man.

In a perfect world, the ongoing legal problems faced by the author of the Colorado GOP’s most treasured constitutional amendment, TABOR–especially his felony conviction for the highly ironic crime of tax evasion–would be a major credibility problem for anyone tasked with defending his handiwork. TABOR’s many Byzantine government-throttling provisions, which can’t even be undone in one initiative due to the subsequent passage of the state’s “single subject” rule for ballot measures, were carefully crafted to hobble the most basic functions of government Coloradans rely on. Nobody knew in 1992 that TABOR was written by what we know now is a criminal mind–and today, no Republican can admit this either, since blind support for TABOR is an article of faith in GOP circles.

But we’ll say it again: the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is a convicted criminal. A criminal felon tax evader. A criminal slumlord. And pending how this latest assault case turns out, a criminal thug too.

We’re grateful to have no political obligation to defend this man, and we’re sorry for those who do.

In Colorado Springs, They Love Their Slumlords

SUNDAY UPDATE: Shocking video of Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins and Doug Bruce walking out of court Friday, a brief exchange that appears to end with Bruce violently ripping the camera from the hands of the questioner:

He’s not a nice man, folks. Original post follows, updates undoubtedly forthcoming.

Because that’s assault, right?

—–

UPDATE: The Colorado Springs Independent sheds significant light on the apparently extensive business relationship between Doug Bruce and Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins:

Evidence suggests the two are more than just political allies. According to a lawsuit filed in 4th Judicial District Court, Bruce and Collins have been working on land transactions together across the country, including in North Dakota, South Carolina, Illinois and Oklahoma, besides Collins’ 2013 acquisition of two apartment buildings in Kansas City for which tenants say Bruce has been in charge…

[T]enant Heather Dugger was scrambling to gather up her family’s belongings and get out on Monday. She said she, her husband and three young children, ages 11, 7 and 3, lived without water for about a month before the notice was posted.

“The water got shut off about a month ago,” Dugger says. “Somehow, the water was still on [at the other building] so we were going next door and filling buckets of water.”

She says she paid rent to a property manager who worked for Bruce. “He’s the one who hired the property manager,” she says, adding that Bruce was supposed to be paying for trash removal and water service and that she paid rent of $450 a month by money order made out to Douglas Bruce. She quit paying rent about three months ago, she says, because the property manager “quit coming by.”

Dugger then cut the interview short, because she was trying to load a U-Haul trailer. “There’s a lot of cuss words [for Bruce],” she says. “All the rent we paid and the water got shut off, and it’s just crazy, knowing they’re taking money away from people.” [Pols emphasis]

—–

collins

Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the continuing trouble City Councilwoman Helen Collins is running into with her real estate investments. This week, Collins survived a recall attempt related to a case currently before the city’s ethics commission, alleging she helped conservative activist and convicted tax cheat Douglas “Mister TABOR” Bruce avoid paying a court judgment in excess of $7,500 owed to the city of Colorado Springs. Bruce has owned a number of residential rental properties, and has frequently run afoul of the law for failure to properly maintain them.

Well, as Gazette reporter Billie Stanton Anleu writes today, Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins is a slumlord in her own right:

One of two Kansas City, Mo., apartment buildings owned by Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins was boarded up and closed Wednesday, a city inspector there confirmed.

Repeated violations, including no water in the building for more than four months, more than $7,000 in unpaid city water bills, multiple fines and the inability to provide a local property manager, led to the closure, said Kansas City inspector Marja Nolan…

In Kansas City, residents in one of two seven-unit buildings, which Collins bought in November 2012, had gone more than four months without water, Nolan said.

Violations dating to Oct 14, 2014, cite an unprotected exterior surface; litter, trash, refuse and rubbish; unapproved storage; failure to register; lack of water; peeling, cracked, blistered paint; rank weeds or unattended growth; and limbs and brush ordered to be removed, the city’s records show.

Doug Bruce.

Doug Bruce.

The report on Collins’ apartment building in Kansas city reads like an urban decay horror story: area residents described how the building was taken over by squatters and subject to drugs raids prior to being boarded up by city officials this week.

But considering who Collins had “managing” her properties in Kansas City, it’s possible that none of this is a surprise:

[Neighborhood leader Tom] Ribera said Collins never returned his calls, but “Douglas Bruce, her acting manager, [Pols emphasis] said he was trying to get a property manager over there. … It’s beyond maintenance; they need a contractor.”

Mystery solved! If you were wondering where Helen Collins got her awesome property management skills from, you can stop wondering. She learned how to be a slumlord from Doug Bruce! Who, in addition to being the Colorado Republican Party’s patron saint of tax policy as the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), is one of our state’s more notorious slumlords.

Perhaps the worst part of this touching story of civic pride and urban renewal is the fact that the voters of Councilwoman Collins’ district didn’t care about any of this–or were at least kept in the dark about Collins’ landlady follies in the “Paris of the Plains” long enough to keep it from factoring in the now-failed recall attempt against her. It might seem unthinkable that a slumlord would be allowed to serve on a city council at all, even if the worst of the blighted properties in her possession are located in another city. But in conservative Colorado Springs, it’s apparently no hindrance to one’s political career.

And next time they vote to turn off the streetlights, it’ll make more sense.

Steve House’s First At-Bat: Swing and a Miss

Steve House.

Steve House.

As the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reports, newly elected Colorado Republican Party chairman Steve House got right to work last week, firing up the Republican faithful to oppose the rascally agenda of those villainous “Denver Democrats” in the state legislature.

The problem is, House’s appeal for donations to the Colorado GOP to stop the “Denver Democrats” appears to rely on making stuff up.

House, who beat Ryan Call for the chairman’s post earlier this month, outlined the “common sense conservative bills” that “Democrat obstructionists” in the state House have killed. (Republicans control the Senate; Democrats the House.) The chairman included in the list of dead bills Senate Bill 1 from Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, “which puts TABOR money into the pockets of the working families.”

Really? That’s news to everybody else at the Capitol:

Senate Republicans are waiting until the legislature passes the budget before taking up the measure which, by the way, the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute actually likes. [Pols emphasis]

Got that? Not only is Senate Bill 15-001 still alive, there’s bipartisan support for it. That means not only does Steve House look foolish to mourn the bill’s death prematurely, he could be making it harder to pass by needlessly injecting partisanship into the debate over the bill. Either way, it’s an inauspicious start for the man who just kicked Ryan Call to the proverbial curb on a wave of “we can do better.”

Because “better” should include having your facts straight.

Congratulations–A Piddly TABOR Refund!

vacuum

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

Colorado taxpayers could be in for state tax refunds between $15 and $89 per person next year, depending on household income.

Those were the predictions from economists for the governor’s office and state legislature presented Wednesday to the state’s joint budget committee.

Colorado is collecting more and more tax revenue due to an improving economy…

In the minds of most Government 101-level citizens, an improving economy would ipso facto mean revenue to plow back into all the priorities the state needs to fund: health care, education, transportation, law enforcement. It would mean no more, or at least fewer quibbles about money to fund programs already on the books like driver licenses for undocumented residents, and properly funding the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for concealed-weapons background checks.

But in Colorado, with our 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights tying the hands of elected officials, that conventional wisdom is turned on its head. AP’s Ivan Moreno:

The state’s quarterly forecasts released Wednesday from legislative and governor’s office economists showed lawmakers they will have to refund anywhere from $70 million to $220 million in tax year 2016. Those refunds are triggered by the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which calls for refunds when revenue exceeds the combined rate of inflation and population growth…

Democrats have long blasted TABOR spending limits as restricting government’s ability to make investments in services, particularly when the economy rebounds after years of cuts during recessions…Republicans, meanwhile, favor TABOR and see it as a needed check on overzealous government spending during economic booms.

If you ask the average Colorado citizen what TABOR does, if they have an answer at all it will usually be limited to its most famous provision requiring votes on tax increases. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of a long, long iceberg. TABOR’s arbitrary limits on spending, restricted to the rates of inflation and population have made things even worse. The state has not fully restored the major cuts forced all over the budget during the recent recession–but without a statewide vote to allow “excess” funds to be retained and put to beneficial use, the benefit citizens naturally expect to realize from improving economy and government revenue is squandered.

Squandered so taxpayers can get a check for between $15 and $89. Yes, every dollar in your pocket counts. But the value of programs and services Coloradans rely on every day counts too, and in this case there is a strong argument that the personal benefit of properly funding our public institutions is worth more to a taxpayer than dinner at Chili’s.

Or at least it should be.

Something For Everyone In Hick’s 2015 State of the State

hicksos

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Governor John Hickenlooper used his fifth State of the State speech today to paint his legislature, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, with a Colorado-ness that reaches beyond party priorities. He touted the new first-ever statewide water plan, quoting Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose poetry is engraved in the Capitol and that emphasizes common interest: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

“Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up,” Hickenlooper said of the water plan, noting it involved “the largest civic engagement process in state history.”

Lawmakers and leaders should come together, Hickenlooper suggested, to apply similarly high standards of public input and cooperation to tackle tough questions surrounding topics like oil and gas development and government funding under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)…

The Denver Post's John Frank on Gov. John Hickenlooper's measured comments on the controversial so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR):

Hickenlooper capped his speech by addressing the state's budget situation — which he labeled a "financial thicket" in his inaugural address Tuesday. It's a reference to the possibility of refunds under the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, despite underfunded state programs.

"There is a legitimate debate of whether government should be a bit bigger or a bit smaller," the governor said, according to prepared remarks. "But that misses the point. Regardless of size, government must work."
 
But he stopped short of asking for an overhaul of TABOR and avoided taking a direct stance on how to address the issue.

"Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket," he said. "And while we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting. "

The Denver Business Journal:

Referencing the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper emphasized the number of environmental protections he has added through collaboration with the industry during his first term, then said he looks forward to seeing the recommendations that a task force examining the role of local government in regulating the industry will deliver later this session. But he did not give any parameters as to what kind of increased regulations he may be willing to back in the Legislature.

On the issue of local control of oil and gas drilling, an issue that caused intense infighting among Democrats last year, Hickenlooper didn't offer much in the way of specifics–but the language that he used to describe those proposals, and the competing interests of surface and subsurface property owners, is unlikely to make conservationists very happy. From the speech:

As part of a compromise to keep economically-devastating initiatives off the ballot, [Pols emphasis] we have worked with the Keystone Center and brought long-polarized interests to the same table…

I look forward to the recommendations of this task force, and pledge to work with you and other stakeholders in developing our energy resources, protecting property rights and our natural environment and public health.

The insistence that increasing local control over oil and gas drilling, in particular the setback and "environmental bill of rights" initiatives put forward during last year's debate, would be "economically devastating" broadcasts our Democratic governor's bias on the issue. There is a legitimate conflict between the rights of surface landowners and mineral rights holders needing resolution, but Hickenlooper still appears firmly on the side of mineral rights owners against local communities based on his comments today.

We wonder how politically tenable that position will be for Hickenlooper throughout his second term, as more research on the effects of "fracking" near residential neighborhoods comes out, and the plummeting price of energy caused by OPEC's price war on the frackers eats away at the already-overblown estimates of the economic impact of the industry in Colorado. Might the same changing economics that led Hickenlooper to endorse President Barack Obama's threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline soften Hick's hard line against communities worried about fracking in their boundaries?

That's one of the biggest of many questions awaiting Hickenlooper in his "legacy term."

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?

What’s up with the TABOR rebates? What’s going on with the TABOR lawsuit? Join us on Jan. 9 and find out.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The agenda for the year’s No. 1 gathering for all things fiscal has been set. Join us! Register here for the 2015 Colorado Fiscal Forum on Friday, Jan. 9 at the Colorado Convention Center, hosted by the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

Breakfast and networking starts at 7:45 a.m. and then settle in for our program starting at 8:30 a.m. sharp.

The Colorado Fiscal Forum brings together the top minds in the state on fiscal and state budget policy issues, but we keep an eye on federal issues and the broader economy as well.

This year, we’re fortunate to have Ellen Nissenbaum, senior vice president for government affairs for the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. to tell us how the new political landscape in Washington could affect the federal budget and funding for health care reform.

We’ll have some insider discussion from attorney David Skaggs about the federal lawsuit against TABOR and from attorney Kathy Gebhardt about the newest legal challenge to school funding. We’ll also have briefings from Natalie Mullis, chief economist for Colorado Legislative Council, and Phyllis Resnick, lead economist for the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University, about revenue projections and the road ahead.

Finally, we’ll have an update from CFI economist Chris Stiffler about Colorado’s Genuine Progress Indicator and CFI Executive Director Carol Hedges will lead a discussion on cutting edge public opinion research being done in Colorado on the prospects for voter approved revenue relief.

The Colorado Fiscal Forum is the No. 1 event for Coloradans who want to be in the know on the state budget and TABOR. You won’t want to miss this year’s lineup. Register here today!

Jill Repella – Scaring Women to the R Side

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

 Bob Beauprez and Jill Repella,photo from Beauprez CampaignRecently, in Pueblo, Beauprez attempted to sidetrack discussion about reproductive choice with a strange diatribe about how women are really scared about Hickenlooper's release of violent parolees, and this is the security issue for which women should vote Republican.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Jill Repella posted a statement on the Beauprez website :  HIgh Risk Parolee Scandal. She touts her female credentials: "As a single mother, I find that [release of parolees] appalling." Repella, a woman promoting this as a woman's issue,  attempts to woo women to the Republican side as "security voters".

Beauprez got booed by the audience, and lambasted by Mike Littwin, for bringing  the murder of prisons chief Tom Clements by parolee Evan Ebel into the debate to make his point about women's safety. Hickenlooper responded factually, that prisoners are no longer released directly from solitary confinement onto the streets.

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New Poll: Tax Fairness Breaks Senate Race Gridlock?

UPDATE #2: From today's press release:

“Coloradans from all backgrounds prefer a Senate candidate who supports closing corporate tax loopholes and ending tax breaks for the wealthy,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling. “The tax fairness agenda is supported by Colorado voters more than most other top issues emphasized by the Senate candidates.  That suggests that a candidate who supports tax fairness issues could get an edge in this race.”

“When you look at the strength of these numbers, it’s hard to understand why the candidates don’t focus more on tax issues,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund. “Colorado families clearly want a fairer tax system and they are more likely to choose a candidate for the U.S. Senate who will fight for it.”

“The results of this poll show that, yet again, Mark Udall falls squarely on the side of the majority of Coloradans when it comes to the issue of corporations paying their fair share,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, Executive Director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Cory Gardner, on the other hand, has voted time and again to give tax breaks to big business and against the best interests of everyday people in our state.”

—–

UPDATE: The Hill's Alexandra Jaffe reports:

PPP also surveyed Coloradans on a series of hot-button issues, including whether they’d be more likely to support a candidate who wants to “protect a woman’s right to choose,” who “believes we just can’t afford ObamaCare” and who wants “to make sure the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”

ProgressNow Colorado Executive Director Amy Runyon-Harris said the results of the survey show Udall is on the right side of most of the issues polled, and particularly on tax fairness issues. She suggested, however, more needs to be done to inform voters of his positions.

“We’ve got 40-odd days here left [before Election Day] to educate voters about where Mark Udall stands on these issues and where Cory Gardner stands on these issues,” she said, expressing confidence that once voters learned more they’d support Udall.

—–

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A new poll by Public Policy Polling released today for Americans for Tax Fairness and ProgressNow Colorado has numbers you won't be surprised by: a statistical tie continuing in the Colorado U.S. Senate race–Cory Gardner technically up 47-45% over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall with 8% undecided. The poll's margin of error is +/- 3.8%.

But as PPP's analysis explains, those aren't the numbers that really matter:

The poll questioned likely voters on a variety of issues that are central to this Senate race, including important tax issues, and found the following: 

• Colorado voters strongly prefer a candidate who supports a “tax fairness”  agenda. Voters across party lines overwhelmingly support a tax system in which the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. 

• Tax fairness issues ranked higher than nearly all other major issues being  debated in the Senate race. 

• Support for tax fairness issues runs so strong across party lines that it appears to  be a core value held by the public. Wide majorities of white, African-American  and Latino voters expressed support for tax fairness. A wide majority of women  and a majority of men expressed support for tax fairness issues. A majority of  self-described moderates and independents also supported these positions.

A total of 10 issues were tested. Three of the top five dealt with tax fairness: 

• 79% of likely voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to close tax loopholes and use the money to create jobs, including 72% of independents and 71% of Republicans. 

• 73% of likely voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to make sure millionaires do not pay a lower tax rate than the middle class, including 75% of independents and 55% of Republicans. 

• 68% of likely voters want to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, including 70% of independents and 57% of Republicans.

Here are the full toplines and analysis.

For the past several months, the U.S. Senate race has been locked in a very narrow range according to most polls. Udall has held on to an enduring lead with women voters over Gardner, which has kept Udall strong through a summer of millions spent on attack ads against him. If the numbers in this poll are accurate, the issue of fairness in tax policy is extremely fertile ground for Udall to differentiate himself from Gardner. In the last big debate over tax rates on wealthy Americans, extending the 2003 Bush tax cuts, Udall and Gardner were polar opposites. More recently, Gardner has supported the Paul Ryan GOP budget plans, all of which included large tax breaks for wealthy Americans–again, on the wrong side of what looks like a lopsided majority.

Is this issue a breakout opportunity for Udall in a race way too close to call?

Sad Walker Stapleton Wishes “State Treasurer” Title Made Him Financial Expert

Walker Stapleton hyper-inflation

Walker Stapleton prefers not to talk about his 2010 suggestion that Colorado invest more heavily in gold.

Do you have any idea what kind of requirements you must meet in order to become Colorado's State Treasurer?

Not much, actually. You must be at least 25 years of age; a Colorado resident for a minimum of 2 years; and a United States Citizen. That's it — that's all there is in the Colorado State Statutes. You don't need to have any sort of special training in finance. You don't even need to have a college degree in, well, anything. Primarily, you just need to have been alive for awhile and in Colorado recently.

Why do we bring this up? Because State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been trying to get appointed to something called The Colorado Retirement Security Task Force, which is being set up by the legislature regarding…yes, retirement savings (bill sponsors Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. John Bucker outlined their legislation in a recent Denver Post Op-Ed). Stapleton was apparently angry that he did not receive an invitation to the task force, and he and his supporters argued (and whined) that it was inconceivable someone could form a financial task force in Colorado and not include the expertise of the State Treasurer.

This was apparently a big deal for Stapleton supporters, with right-wing blogs devoting multiple posts to the topic this week. In one post this week from the blog Colorado Peak Politics, the author makes the case for including Stapleton on the Task Force while at the same time complaining that the whole idea is stupid anyway — basically repeating what teenagers across Colorado are saying this time of year when they don't get invited to Prom. Here's the "why Stapleton" argument:

Treasurer Walker Stapleton is the only statewide official who sits on the board of the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), and his expertise would be invaluable to the task force.  So why block him from participating?

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DCCC Hits Coffman on New “Ryan Plan”

The Hill reports today:

House Democratic leaders bashing Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) latest budget bill have at least one good thing to say about the sweeping plan: It could help them at the polls in November.

Democrats have been focused on a populist economic agenda that includes an increase in the minimum wage, an extension of emergency jobless benefits and a broad expansion of health insurance coverage included in the Affordable Care Act. 

They're hoping the Ryan plan — which slashes spending on food stamps, low-income education initiatives and Medicaid, among a long list of domestic programs — plays right into their messaging strategy.

It's generally accepted today that the budget proposals put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan since 2010 have harmed Republicans politically, especially in 2012 when Ryan's spot on the Republican presidential ticket made him an icon of their policy goals. Democrats aggressively campaigned against Ryan's budget proposals, particularly where they affected popular programs like Medicare and Social Security. Fact-checkers stopped short of validating the frequent Democratic campaign charge that the Ryan Plan would "end Medicare," but it's a much more accurate statement to say Ryan's proposal would privatize Medicare–and no less damaging politically.

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