Columnists, Jon Caldara, Proposition CC, TABOR, Taxes, Uncategorized

Caldara: Prop CC a forever end to tax refunds; that’s a really long time

Forever is a really, really long time.

Strawberry fields are forever. Rod Stewart wants us to stay “Forever Young.” The best forever is when my son says, “I love you dad … forever!”

Never getting your excess tax refunds again, ever, well that’s a bad forever. And that’s the forever we’ll have if Proposition CC passes this fall.

Our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is all about consent. Politicians can tax and spend the state into oblivion; all they have to do is ask our permission first through an election. That’s it.

Politicians can keep our excess tax revenue as well. Again, all they have to do is ask first.

But Prop CC says you agree to give up your tax refunds not for just this year, not for the next four years, but forever. No future generation will be able to give or withhold their consent over their tax refunds.

Our children’s children’s children will never get a TABOR refund. Nor even be asked.

Not only does TABOR require a public vote to raise taxes or debt, it sets a spending limit for our governments. Should the state collect more in tax revenue than that limit, it must return the excess back from where it came, you.

Well, doesn’t the state need that excess revenue? Even the TABOR-loathing Denver Post Editorial Board admits, “we are no longer convinced that the state needs more revenue for the general fund. The state’s economy is booming and thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, revenue from state income tax filings has spiked in Colorado … It’ll be tough to argue that the state is hard-pressed for cash, or that it is crippled by TABOR, a year after historic investments were made in K-12 education, roads and higher education.”

The state is swimming in your cash because of three basic reasons. First, the new Trump tax reform lowers our federal taxes, but as The Post notes it has the reverse effect for Coloradans via our state income tax. That’s because your Colorado state income tax is based on your “Federal Taxable Income.” And that line item actually goes up under the Trump tax code.

An important aside on that — the Colorado legislature voted down a bill to adjust your state income tax so you wouldn’t be getting a huge state tax hike because of the federal tax changes. Think about that one.

The second reason the state gobbles up so much more of your money is because of the many tax increases the state legislature passed without your consent. They do that by calling a tax increase a “fee.”

Without asking you they have passed the growth dividend, the Faster fee, the mill-levy freeze, and the hospital provider fee. These are all tax increases. These “fees” have ballooned so much that around two-thirds of the state budget falls in this category of “we didn’t ask you” taxes.

And thirdly, the state is awash in your cash because in 2005 voters gave the state permission to keep our tax refunds for five years, not forever, and permanently ratchet up the TABOR spending baseline. Now in 2019, the state is able to keep about $2 billion a year more because of that higher spending limit.

You should know the key players who helped pass that five-year, not forever, timeout in 2005, former Gov. Bill Owens and former U.S. Senator Hank Brown, are strongly endorsing a no vote on Prop CC today.

It’s not just good that you get your TABOR refunds, estimated at about $650 million in the next couple of years, it’s good for state government. You read that right.

The point to remember about government spending is that any dollar the state spends this year is a commitment to spend a dollar and five cents next year. Government programs grow at least by inflation, often more.

Prop CC doesn’t put this excess revenue into an emergency fund for a rainy day. The money goes right out the door as new spending.

So when, not if, the next recession hits, the state budget would be falling from a much higher cliff, causing great pain. This happened in 2009 with the great recession during that five-year, not forever, TABOR timeout and it triggered budget havoc. Just ask those dealing with the “education negative factor.”

While diamonds are forever, economic good times aren’t.

Don’t rip away your kid’s taxpayer’s rights.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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