LYONS — The Colorado Union of Taxpayers (CUT) has released its annual report on state lawmakers, including its first ever, “Wall of Shame.”
According to its website, the CUT is an advocacy group for taxpayers that aims to “remind the Legislators, we, the taxpayers, are well able to make our own decisions on how we spend our own money.”
Further it says: “The job of the Colorado Assembly is to enforce our freedoms to establish contracts between one-another and not to simply redistribute our earnings as they see fit.”
The group was founded in 1976. During the 2017 session, it followed dozens of bills and opposed many of them for many reasons, including: bills that required new taxes, bills that tried to get around the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), or bills that created new debt without voter approval, among others.
According to a press release, the group sent position papers on 129 bills to all 100 legislators during the 2017 session.
The complete legislative summary can be found here.
In order to get CUT’s support, candidates must sign a pledge that says they will, among other things, honor and uphold the intent and the spirit of TABOR, oppose any new tax increase, limit spending to population growth and inflation, support tax surplus refunds and prioritize spending.
Legislators that sign that pledge know that CUT ranks all legislators on how well they protect the taxpayer and award those who do the best.
CUT named Sen. Vicki Marble, (R-Fort Collins) and Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen) its 2017 Taxpayer Champions. It is the second consecutive year for Marble. 2017 Guardians were Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) and Sen. Jim Smallwood (R-Parker) as well as Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Windsor). This was Humphrey’s second year in this category.
For the first time this year, they shamed those they believe damaged the taxpayer.
Those included CUT pledge signers Senators Randy Baumgardner (R- Cowdrey), Kevin Grantham, (R-Canon City) and Kevin Priola (R-Henderson); and Representatives Phillip Covarrubias (R-Arapahoe), Lois Landgraf (R-El Paso), Polly Lawrence (R-Douglas), Kimmi Lewis (R-Las Animas), Larry Liston (R-El Paso) and Clarice Navarro (R-Pueblo).
Non-CUT signers who were also included in the Wall of Shame were Senators Lucia Guzman (D-Denver), and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Representatives Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) and KC Becker (D-Boulder).
According to the news release, the Wall of Shame was a direct result of SB 17-267. CUT said in its release that “267 was the most egregious bill in decades pushed through in the waning hours of the 2017 session.”
It “ripped into Taxpayers Bill of Rights preventing first, taxpayers the opportunity to testify against the bill and secondly, preventing Colorado citizens a vote on up to $1.9 B tax increase and $2.0 B increase in debt,” the release said.
After the bill became law, Complete Colorado reported draft problems as a result of the rush to pass. The bill defunded the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the taxing district that funds both the Denver Zoo and The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The mistake will cost RTD $6 million a year.
Calling for a special session or a rule-making committee have been talked about to fix the problem, but it could require waiting until the next session. By then, RTD will have lost $3 million. Officials inside the Governor’s office said there are several things being discussed as possible fixes.
“A special session is one option, but it is an unlikely option,” is all the Governor’s office would officially say.