2021 Leg Session, 2022 Election, Elections, Featured, Gold Dome, Governor Polis, Original Report, Sherrie Peif, TABOR, Taxes

Gov. Polis makes cost of living a campaign issue, despite signing millions in new fees into law

DENVER — As Gov. Jared Polis campaigns for re-election on the platform that Colorado’s cost of living is too high, new laws are taking effect that begin hitting pocketbooks immediately — laws that he himself signed.

“What’s frustrating people is how costs have gone up faster than incomes,” Polis said at a recent event hosted by the Colorado Sun, adding that the main way he plans to drive down Coloradans’ costs is by providing relief from government fees. That includes reducing the price to register a car, eliminating the costs to start a new business in the state and reducing the amount of money people must pay to get licensed in certain medical occupations.

Yet, these are new fees he himself supported while they were making their way through the legislature, and that he signed into law in just the past year. Moreover, they were signed into law at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic, while families were struggling to pay rent and businesses were shut down or limited, forcing more layoffs.

While Polis is recommending delaying a new gas fee, one other new fee on vehicles did take effect Jan. 1. The law will no longer allow drivers to transfer license plates from one car to another without added fees. The Colorado License Plate Reissue Program, was passed during the 2021 session and signed in to law by Polis with the justification it would improve the safety for first responders and motorists, claiming some plates begin to fade over time.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, plates for Class C motor vehicles will now expire upon transfer of the owner’s title or interest in the vehicle. Those include passenger vehicles, motorhomes, and motorcycles.

The owner can retain the same combination of letters or numbers but must apply for a personalized license plate and must still surrender the old plates and use the newly issued plate.

The fee increases range from a low of $5 if a motorist does nothing and accepts a new plate with new numbers to a high of $120 for a personalized plate (including retaining old number combinations that were not considered personalized previously) on the standard green with white mountain design.

The new license plate laws are just the tip of the iceberg, however. All totaled, Polis signed into law 83 bills that will raise costs on Coloradans between $579 million and $617 million annually — without a single vote of the taxpayer.

Ben Murrey, the Director of Fiscal Policy for the *Independence Institute, researched all the bills from the 2021 session and found that of the 83 bills passed, only 45 had revenue projections attached to their fiscal notes. He lists all 45 of those bills in his report.

Murrey reports that because some of the bills expand spending as well, the net gain to the state in revenue is somewhere between $410.9 million and $423.7 million for fiscal year 2022-23, revenue that comes in the form of higher fees that skirted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to become law by Polis’ pen.

Even the Denver Post noted the overwhelming amount of new taxes saying: “this session was full of examples of Democrats trying to creatively overcome TABOR.”

Polis’ newfound concern for higher costs extends to employment taxes as well. While employment taxes went up because of the new paid family and medical leave bill, Polis now says he wants to avoid payroll tax increases by paying back some of the state’s debt in pandemic unemployment spending.

“If we fail to act, payroll taxes will go up in Colorado, costing businesses and workers money,” Polis said at the Sun event.

The Governor’s office did not return requests from Complete Colorado for comment on if he believes one year hiatus from all the new fees would be enough to recover from the ongoing inflation, or what year he believes would be the right time to implement all the new fees.


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