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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Rivera / Crowder Town Hall Heats Up, Democracy Thrives

 

 



 

 


When Colorado Senators Larry Crowder (left) and George Rivera convened a town hall in Pueblo on Wednesday, March 19, they probably hadn't planned to be confronted, interrupted, and corrected by dozens of Pueblo citizens of various political stripes. But that's what happened.

Over the course of a two hour meeting, Rivera and Crowder discussed wage theft, the proposed SouthWest Chief Rail expansion to Pueblo, PERA, TABOR, minimum wage and the rights of workers to organize, with about fifty vocal and opinionated constituents.

Senator Rivera came out swinging as the hard-right conservative he is- he explained that he is a "right to work" guy, that he is "not a believer in… the whole concept of the minimum wage", that he would like to privatize PERA (change it from a defined benefit to a "defined contribution" model).

He does not support the  lawsuit challenging TABOR, and he would rather see people paying fuel taxes than using public transportation, a dig at the proposed SW Chief rail line, the signature issue of his opponent for SD3, Represenative Leroy Garcia.

On SB14-05,  the "wage theft" legislation passed out of Committee  and into Appropriations with no Republican support, neither Senator took a strong position.  Both Senators agreed that it is a shame to steal a day's pay for a day's work, expressed some caution about costs of the measure, and moved on.


Senator Crowder, the more experienced politician, took softer stances, or tried to avoid taking stances altogether. He did not agree with privatizing PERA. He also does not support the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of TABOR, does not support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, and seems to be somewhat ignorant of what would be required to dismantle TABOR.

On the minimum wage issue, Crowder advocates for raising the "median wage", a proposal which got quite a few baffled looks from the town hall attendees. Crowder stated  that only 2% of workers receive minimum wage, when, in actuality, 59% of workers, mostly women, are paid at the minimum level. 


When directly challenged by Yesenia Beascochea (left) of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition: "How are people supposed to buy groceries on $7 an hour?" Crowder waffled until he was rescued by George Rivera's daughter, (left center) who ranted for three minutes, questioning  why anyone should support poor folks on Medicaid.

So, Crowder never answered Beascochea's question.  Crowder is also the more moderate of the two southeastern Colorado Senators; Crowder was the only Republican to vote for Colorado's Medicaid expansion and Health Exchange. Lamar's Crowder is also a co-sponsor of the SW Chief rail expansion legislation, and did not agree with Rivera on the need to "privatize PERA".


Excerpts from the Town Hall discussion:

PERA

Rivera supports a “defined contribution” plan, not a “defined benefit” plan. Rationale: it will save money.

Carole Partin, a teacher, challenged him: Privatizing PERA will change it, and those are benefits that we worked for.  A defined contribution plan goes out to the hedge fund managers.

MINIMUM WAGE:

Barb Clementi, another teacher,  schooled the Senators on how we subsidize Walmart because of minimum wages. Rivera argued that low wages, low taxes are what brought businesses in.

Rivera argued that minimum wage legislation is a "slippery slope." He wondered, "Why would it stop at $10/hr, why not $25 hr?", and predicted that businesses would pass costs to the consumer, or close down. When confronted with examples of businesses such as Costco and others which pay $10.10 an hour, and are thriving, he changed the subject.

Question: What’s your opinion on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?

Rivera: "Well, I’m not a believer in the minimum wage. The whole concept of the minimum wage.  Because, OK, you raise it up to ten dollars and ten cents. What’s the business going to do? Are they gonna sit there, and say, OK, we’re gonna pay out that ten dollars and ten cents? And all of a sudden, we’re in the red, and whereas before we were paying seven dollars, seven-fifty, and isn’t that three dollars…more?. What are they gonna do? They’re gonna raise the cost of their goods to make up that three dollars and ten cents. So all of a sudden that ten dollars and ten cents…you’re right back where you were, a year or two later, you’re chasing your tail."

"Now let me give you another, for example….why stop at $10.10?  Why not go to twenty-five? Because twenty-five dollars an hour…Heck, we’ll all agree is good money, and everyone will be happy. No, that’s not gonna work, again, because they gotta raise the cost, raise the price of whatever goods they’re selling. They gotta make up for the cost of that pay raise, whatever it is."

Q: Do you think that Walmart’s going to go in the red by paying the minimum wage?

Crowder: Here I thought I had a chance. I can wait outside. (laughter)

"Here’s the thing about the minimum wage. 2% of the people rely on the minimum wage. (he’s 57% off, according to the Dept of Labor- 59% of American workers work for minimum wage)

What we ought to be talking about is the median wage. (Audience murmurs, puzzled) We’ve lost so much ground in the middle class. That’s what we ought to do. ….we need to work legislatively to stay out of the middle class’s way, so that they can continue…I think if we take care of the median wage, that the minimum wage will take care of itself. One of the things we can do is we can look at the employment percentage right now. "

It’s 9%. What we can do is get that employment percentage down here (gestures), and

Q: Yesenia Beascochea: Can I interrupt real quick, because I hear the both of you talking about the minimum wage.  Pay the people seven dollars an hour, minimum wage, and they have to buy the groceries, as the prices rise. The prices are rising. So how are you guys expecting…and I’m talking about poor people, that can’t afford to buy groceries at seven dollars an hour?

Crowder: (doesn’t answer her question) Would it benefit the working poor if a certain percent lost their jobs?

(Rivera's daughter complains for three minutes about how health care for the poor costs money to middle class people because: Obamacare).

TABOR:

I asked both Senators about their positions on TABOR.

Crowder: "My position on TABOR is simple. Voters voted it in. It’s up to the voters to vote it out. I do not agree with the lawsuit on TABOR that’s in the courts right now. I think what it does, it…undermines the voters…If people, truly, do not want TABOR, which I believe is….you hear both sides, you know? But I do believe that, to go through the court system, when the people of Colorado voted for it, undermines them.  So if someone wants to bring a petition, and convince the people of Colroado to get that back on the ballot,  then I would support that."

Barb Clementi (left): You recognize that it would take six or eight initiatives to actually do that?

Crowder: No, no, that can’t be true.

Barb Clementi: Yes, it would take many different initiatives to undo TABOR.

(Rivera interrupts)

Rivera:  "Well, I’ll be honest with you. If we have the low taxes that you’re talking about, ….you don’t think that TABOR had something to do with that? Look at all of the fees we pay…the fee you pay when you get your license plates. What do you think that is? That’s a tax by another name, that’s all that is."

UNIONS and ORGANIZING

Ron Greenwell, (left), chair of the Pueblo Democratic party, questioned Senator Rivera about how he felt about unions in general.

Greenwell: What do you know about the Colorado Peace Act? What do you feel about unions in general? And, would you support organized labor in the future?


Rivera: On the Colorado Peace Act, I'm not sure what you're referring to.

Greenwell: The Colorado Peace Act is legislation, that, when you're going in to organize, it's not a 50 plus 1, ….it's a 60 plus 40, something like that. And so, to make it fair for those who are organizing, they have to get 60% of the vote, rather than 50% plus 1.

RIGHT to WORK (for less): Rivera: Well, I believe in “right to work”. Let’s put it that way. …

(loud disagreement, chatter, laughter, comments from audience.

Rivera: …I don't think it's anti-union, whatever…I believe in right to work.

Rivera: I think if the government just keeps out of the way of people….(interruptions by several audience members) "Government is people! ”Government is in the business of helping the common people."


GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE OK IF IT'S WOMEN'S BODIES?

Kiera Hatton-Sena countered with a pointed question: So,  the “government shouldn’t interfere” with my body?"

Neither of the Senators answered Hatton-Sena's question.

The town hall finished with Rivera proclaiming that he was happy that so many people had attended his town hall, although they were clearly not in agreement with him. Colorado Progressive Coalition had informed its members about the town hall. 

I personally found it disturbing, not that there was conflict and disagreement, but how uninformed both Senators were. Rivera did not know the provisions of the Colorado Peace Act, although he proclaims that he believes in "Right to Work". Crowder had no clue that 59% of the population, not 2%, receives minimum wage. Neither Senator knew how much work it would take to undo Tabor; when they advocated for voter initiatives, to "Let the Voters Decide," they were effectively advocating to let TABOR continue to wreak harm in Colorado indefinitely. Rivera was seemingly not aware that a "defined contribution plan" effectively privatizes people's retirement benefits.

Senators Rivera and Crowder are out of touch with the majority of their constituents who are in favor of raising the minimum wage. They don't "get" women's complaints about the hypocrisy of proclaiming that government should not interfere with people's lives, while the government aggressively interferes with women's reproductive choices over their own bodies. In pro-union Pueblo, in which most people have a family member who worked or works for a union, Rivera's hard anti-union stance will also not win friends and influence constituents.

This is what small-d democracy looks like, and it is indeed a positive thing. It remains to be seen if the Senators will follow up with conversations with, and allow themselves to be educated by their disaffected constituents, or merely heave sighs of relief: "That's over."


 

Video from 3/19 Pueblo town hall More videos at: http://www.youtube.com/user/socoteacher

 

All photos and videos of this event by the author.

 

Another Republican Joins Growing Anti-TABOR Chorus

UPDATE: Vic Vela at Colorado Community Media sheds some light on the arcane workings of TABOR in play here:

A TABOR technicality may require the state to issue pot revenue refunds – even though voters intended for money that's collected from marijuana tax money to go towards school construction and the cost of pot industry regulations.

TABOR is generally thought of as being a statute that requires all tax hikes be approved by the voters. But the technical clause also includes an area that requires the state to issue tax refunds when state spending exceeds expectations that are included in voter information material that is sent out each election, otherwise called the "Blue Book."

That seems to be the case this year and lawmakers are trying to figure out how to deal with it.

"This is confounding," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. "TABOR told us to let the voters decide. The voters have decided and their wishes may be frustrated by something hidden in the TABOR amendment."

Doug Bruce says, "mwah!"

—–

Rep. Cheri Gerou (R).

Rep. Cheri Gerou (R).

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, things sometimes look different from a seat on the powerful legislative Joint Budget Commission. And that includes, where the subject is a reasonable actor, Republicans:

For years Democrats have been ranting and raving about Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires voters to approve all tax hikes and keeps state spending from rising beyond a certain level.

On Tuesday, during a Joint Budget Committee briefing on the state’s quarterly revenue forecast, a Republican lawmaker joined them.

“I have to tell you, quite honestly, the more I learn about TABOR, particularly what it did with the floods in our counties, the less and less I like TABOR, and the more insidious I think it has been to state government,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee and is in her final year at the legislature…

“I’ll have an effigy burned in my front yard when I get home, but it’s the honest to goodness truth,” Gerou said. “It’s not been good.” [Pols emphasis]

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Reminder: TABOR Has a Dark Side

weedmoney

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

Tax revenues from Colorado’s new recreational marijuana industry are pouring into state coffers — and that’s actually a bit of a problem for lawmakers…

According to a legal analysis conducted by the state and obtained by FOX31 Denver, the marijuana revenues are subject to the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which will require lawmakers to take action if tax revenues from the new legal marijuana industry exceed the estimated $67 million in annual revenue that was anticipated in the 2013 Blue Book analysis of Proposition AA, the new sales and excise tax rates voters approved in November.

The legal memorandum from the Office of Legislative Legal Services was sent to members of the Joint Budget Committee Monday night…

The most current Dept. of Revenue estimate forecasts that the state will take in $107 million, exceeding the Blue Book estimate by some $40 million.

The conclusion: the state must lower the tax rate and either refund the excess amount of revenues above the $67 million estimate or refer a measure to the November 2014 or 2015 ballot seeking permission from voters to let the state keep and spend all of the tax revenue from recreational marijuana.

As news reports came in that the tax revenue being collected from the legal sale of marijuana in Colorado was greatly exceeding early estimates–something we predicted would be the case–the possibility that this new robust source of revenue might be subject to Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits was in the back of our minds.

When defending TABOR, Republicans generally stick to the most popular provision of convicted felon Doug Bruce's labyrinthine 1992 constitutional "tax reform" measure: its requirement that affected citizens vote on tax increases. If that was truly all TABOR did, it would be harder for Democrats and good government-minded Republicans–some also part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn TABOR–to publicly oppose it, though the basic question of whether that disrupts the whole principle of small-r republican government remains. When you poll that one aspect of TABOR, naturally, it polls well.

But when you start getting under the hood–how tax increase elections are subject to stringent limits on timing and ballot question language, how TABOR stymies the ability of the state to plan in good times for bad times, how (as may be in this case) the state cannot even take advantage of a huge new revenue source twice approved by voters–it's not nearly as rosy a picture now, is it?

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School Funding

Pols reporting of the ongoing school funding issue in the legislature seems nonexistent. Check out Chalkboard for the news on a united front of Colorado educators asking for no more unfunded mandates and some backfilling of the cuts of the last few years.

Democratic legislators appear to be under increasing pressure to restore funding, WITHOUT requiring implementation of their pet projects. Yesterday's letter to Gov. Hickenlooper signed by almost all superintendents in the state is unprecedented, yet very clear in what educators feel they need.

Federal Suit Challenging TABOR Lives Another Day

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In the case of Kerr v. Hickenlooper, state legislators and others have sought to have Colorado's taxpayer's bill of rights (TABOR) declared unconstitutional because it deprives Colorado of a Republican form of government, under the federal constitutional guaranty clause and the act that authorized Colorado to become a state.

On Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado refusing to dismiss the lawsuit either on the ground that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, or on the grounds that this was a "political question" beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to resolve.  An additional equal protection claim was dismissed by the trial court, but that dismissal was beyond the scope of the appeal decided with the permission of the trial court judge prior to a final ruling in the case.

As a result, the case will now go forward on the merits of whether or not TABOR deprives the citizens of the State of Colorado of a Republican form of government, unless an en banc panel of the 10th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court decide to stop the suit now (both of which are unlikely since this is not a final determination of the case of the merits).  Since the decision will now be on the merits of the case, the stakes are now much higher.  Realistically, however, this lawsuit is still a long shot that is unlikely to prevail.

The 10th Circuit ruling is available at: http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/12/12-1445.pdf

“Obamaquester” No More!

The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reports:

[In summer 2011], the GOP and President Obama agreed to set caps on annual spending and to set in motion a bigger, broader budget cut: sequestration. This was a massive cut — $85 billion in the first year — spread across much of the federal government…

When the House GOP created a PowerPoint presentation titled “What We’ve Achieved,” these ­sequester-driven reductions in spending were trumpeted in the first slide. “For the first time since the Korean War, total federal spending has gone down for two years in a row,” the party declares, meaning fiscal 2012 and 2013. The spending cuts were also on the second slide. And the third. There were five slides total. (The other two focused on tax increases that might have happened, but didn’t.)

“It forced the spending curve downward,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said. “It actually made government and Washington, D.C., finally deal with what the American people have been dealing with, and that’s having to deal with less income and revenue.” [Pols emphasis]

The large across-the-board budget cuts mandated by the “sequester” provisions of the 2011 Budget Control Act, as Fahrenthold explains, were meant to be a “booby trap” to force both sides to negotiate over future budget reductions. The agreement to set up this negotiation “incentive” came after the last great budgetary impasse between President Barack Obama and House Republicans in 2011, which led to the first-ever downgrade of the nation’s credit rating and tremendous turmoil in financial markets.

Here’s Rep. Scott Tipton, similarly praising the sequester cuts locked in by this week’s deal:

Today’s agreement includes positive steps to extend responsible spending reforms, prevent a national default on nearly $17 trillion of U.S. debt, and reopen the government. It protects the economy and sets the stage for further budget negotiations to address our nation’s spending crisis. Our nation is facing a staggering national debt, and this plan continues to address the debt by extending sequester-level spending reforms. [Pols emphasis]

But just a few short months ago, Republicans were saying something very different.

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Cruz Plots Against Boehner? Fiscal Fight Goes Red-on-Red

SUNDAY UPDATE: As the New York Times reports, fevered apocalyptic rhetoric is the order of the day:

Representative John Culberson of Texas said that as he and his colleagues were clamoring for a vote, he shouted out his own encouragement. “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!' [Pols emphasis] ” That the Senate would almost certainly reject the health care delay, he added, was not a concern. “Ulysses S. Grant used to say, ‘Boys, quit worrying about what Bobby Lee is doing. I want to know what we are doing.’ And that’s what the House is doing today, thank God.”

Because when you invoke 9/11 and the Civil War at the same time, you surely must mean business.

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UPDATE: It looks like Sen. Ted Cruz has prevailed over John Boehner, and a shutdown it will be–Politico:

House Republicans will vote to pass a one-year delay of Obamacare in exchange for funding the government, a plan that drastically increases the chances of a government shutdown this Tuesday.

The decision was announced by the GOP leadership in a closed meeting Saturday afternoon, according to sources present. Republicans will also pass a bill to fund U.S. troops if the government shuts down, according to GOP lawmakers. The House’s funding measure will keep the government open until mid December…

“We’ve had enough of the disunity in our party,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the meeting of House Republicans Saturday afternoon. “The headlines are Republicans fighting Republicans. This will unite us. [Pols emphasis] This protects the people who sent us here from Obamacare.”

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

A key development in a brief Hill story yesterday:

Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday appeared to confirm that he plotted with House conservatives to prevent Republican leadership from shifting strategy in the government shutdown fight. 

“We’ve had numerous conversations with numerous members of the House,” Cruz (R-Texas) said after the Senate approved a continuing resolution that was amended by Democrats to preserve funding for ObamaCare…

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team on Thursday tried to round up votes for a bill that would tie a debt-ceiling increase to a wish-list of Republican priorities. But conservatives balked, forcing GOP leaders to postpone a vote on the bill.

The National Review reported Friday that Cruz and his allies had met with House conservatives on Thursday and urged them to oppose Boehner’s move to push a fight over the healthcare law to the debt ceiling.

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

​We haven't yet heard if any Colorado movers/shakers were in that meeting, but here's looking at you, Cory Gardner.

To be honest, given the much more dire consequences of a default on the nation's debt–even the discussion of it–than a government shutdown, steering away from that particular battleground could be a smart strategic decision by Sen. Ted Cruz. But the fact remains that Republicans are apparently not anywhere near agreement even amongst themselves as they clamber on in pursuit of what Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn describes as "the Holy Grail" of killing President Barack Obama's eponymous health care reform law. Polling shows that Sen. Cruz's 21-hour "pseudobuster" this week was seen by many more Americans as a useless stunt than an effective action. Polling also shows that even Americans who are uneasy about Obamacare do not want the government shut down in order to stop it. And the additional leverage that Speaker John Boehner seeks in holding the so-called "debt ceiling" hostage is directly the result of the even greater harm that would be done if Republicans don't get their way.

If you thought 2011 was a train wreck, maybe you haven't seen anything yet.