DENVER — Two petitions currently making their way though the signature gathering process are asking voters to bypass the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), with one that would keep and spend money that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers and another that would increase the cap on state revenue.
TABOR is a state constitutional amendment that, among other things, requires voter approval for new or increased taxes, and limits a portion of the state budget to a formula of population growth plus inflation.
Initiative 63 would take one-third of 1 percent of all revenue collected by the state though income taxes, including tax dollars overcollected under TABOR, and redirect it to preschool through 12th-grade public education. Although the proposition has the usual language claiming the additional revenue is collected without raising taxes, this isn’t entirely the case.
Because revenue collected under the measure would normally be refunded to taxpayers for overpayment under TABOR, taxpayers will be giving more of their money to the state by allowing it to retain the money — an increase. The language is used almost always by organizations who put initiatives before voters that will reduce the refunds guaranteed under TABOR.
TABOR refunds are currently a hot topic as some of the same Democrats that have in the past supported an end to the refund mechanism are taking credit for Coloradans getting their refunds earlier than otherwise via a bill to send the mandatory TABOR refund checks months ahead of the 2022 tax season.
The bill that authorized $750 be sent to anyone over 18 who filed a return by June 30 of this year is being heralded as the result of an economic boom. But Republicans say it’s an election-year marketing tactic.
Gov. Jared Polis, Treasurer Dave Young and Democratic legislative leaders — who face re-election in a year that Republicans are expected to win back many seats in Colorado — said the early checks would help Coloradans weather record-breaking inflation.
But Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said the early refund checks are “an ‘election year TABOR flip-flop’ by Democrats in the state Legislature and governor’s office.
If passed, Initiative 63 will be used for “attracting, retaining, and compensating teachers and student support professionals.”
A new ‘affordable housing’ fund
The other Initiative in the signature gathering phase is 108, which would increase spending caps under TABOR by taking one-tenth of 1 percent from revenues collected on taxable income and earmarking the money for “affordable housing.” The measure would exempt those revenues from the TABOR spending cap.
Sixty percent of the earmarked revenue would be used for “affordable housing financing programs that will reduce rents, purchase land for affordable housing development, and build assets for renters,” and 40 percent would be used for “programs that support affordable home ownership, serve persons experiencing homelessness, and support local planning capacity; requiring local governments that seek additional affordable housing funding to expedite development approvals for affordable housing projects and commit to increasing the number of affordable housing units by 3 percent annually.”
At the same time Democrats are calling for affordable housing, they are imposing energy code mandates on new construction that those in the industry say will drive up home prices, taking many lower income buyers out of the market.
Both petitions require around 126,000 signatures, and they appear well funded, using paid circulators — who earn on average at least $25 per hour or up to $12 per valid signature — to gather signatures.
Initiative 63 is paying Strategic Initiative, LLC, and Taylor Petition Management, LLC to circulate its petition.
Initiative 108 is paying an unusually high number of firms to solicit signatures. They include Advanced Micro Targeting, Inc; Bestslope Public Affairs, LLC; Blitz Canvassing; Doucett Enterprises, LLC dba OnSpot Solutions; Joshua P.J. Visga; Landslide Political; RJF Consulting; and Total Signers, LLC.
Both petitions are due to the Secretary of State’s office by August 8 for verification.
As of July 17, there are 12 petitions approved for circulation. It is not known if all 12 are gathering signatures, although Initiatives 58 (The unlawful murder of a child), 96 (Increasing the number of liquor licenses one person can hold), 121 (allowing grocery stores to sell wine), and 122 (allowing restaurants to use third party delivery services to deliver alcohol) have all hired professional signature gathering firms.
Only one Initiative has formally made the 2022 ballot to date, that is Initiative 31, which would reduce the state income tax rate from 4.55 percent to 4.40 percent. That Initiative was brought by *Independence Institute President Jon Caldara and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.
* Independence Institute is the publisher of Complete Colorado.
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