Coloradans are expected to be received Tax refund in the billions by 2023, but House Democrats would rather not do it.
The majority party wants to spend the money on infrastructure projects at public universities and prisons, on roads and on education – although the state budget is relatively tight and Colorado receives 3.8 billion US dollars in stimulus funds.
To do this, the taxpayer’s Bill of Rights must be bypassed, which is sure to be pushed back by Republicans. And with the 2022 election coming up, voters may not like it either (in 2019, they refused a democratic electoral measure so that the state government reimburses TABOR funds).
“We will see dollars, which could certainly be used for our budget priorities, decline in ways that are not as tailored and focused,” said Democratic MP Julie McCluskie of Dillon, vice chair of the state’s joint budget committee. “If we can make additional investments in these needs and services, it feels like it’s the responsible thing we have to do.”
Why refunds are on the table
Democrats describe their idea of averting TABOR as creative. Republicans see it as cynical and inconsistent with the will of the voters.
TABOR requires that every Colorado tax increase be approved by voters, which means that city councils, district committees, and the state legislature cannot rewrite tax laws on their own. But the upcoming battle for refunds is about more.
“The problem is, people think TABOR is about being able to vote on taxes,” said Chris Hansen, Democratic Senator from Denver, a member of the Joint Committee on Budgets. “Well, there are 12 other things at stake” – including taxpayers’ refunds when the growth in state tax revenues exceeds population growth plus inflation.
Because Colorado’s economy has back quickly After a deep slump in the early pandemic – lawmakers cut about $ 3 billion from the General Fund in the spring of 2020, three times more than during the Great Recession – the state is expected to hit the reimbursement cap for the next three years.
Legislative analysts estimate nearly $ 2 billion in reimbursements, largely split across three checks to individual taxpayers – about $ 50 or more for most and into the low hundred for wealthy earners. It would also trigger a small income tax cut across the board.
The governor’s budget staff are more optimistic and anticipate refunds of nearly $ 3 billion.
It’s too late, say Democratic lawmakers, to try to capture this year’s refund money, but they could get the bulk of what is projected in the next two.
Democratic strategy, GOP pushback
TABOR hinders the government in many ways, but most importantly it doesn’t prevent lawmakers from starting new “businesses” that are funded by fees – a fee attached to the purchase of gas or the renewal of a license, for example. Corporate fees are deducted from wallets in the same way as taxes, but the money they bring in doesn’t count towards the refund cap.
When Democrats start businesses for more fees, they can generate the same or more revenue while lowering reimbursement obligations.
“And we have a list of options in that category,” said Hansen.
Senior Legislative Household Officer, Republican Senator Bob Rankin of Carbondale, laughed when asked about the Democrats’ plans by The Denver Post.
“Of course they want to keep (the money),” he said.
He argued that it would offend the spirit of TABOR and that it was bad economic policy. All the restitution money is better in people’s pockets, he said – not in the legislature’s.
Democrats believe the $ 3.8 billion the state will receive from the US bailout bill will not solve long-term funding problems and is therefore no reason to be comfortable now. They point to infrastructural arrears worth billions and the underfunding of education as problems that will outlast the economic money.
“The budget is not in good shape,” said Hansen, arguing that nearly 30 years of TABOR restrictions have created so much arrears that a strengthening state economy and federal stimulus programs are insufficient to meet the state’s spending needs.
Rankin does the opposite.
“That’s a lot of money and covers the same three years,” when projecting refunds, Rankin said, noting that local governments also receive billions in incentives. “So why should we find clever ways to defeat TABOR when we have all that federal money there?
“Until (June) we didn’t expect that this money would even exist. Obviously we had planned a budget without it, why do we suddenly need it so badly? “
This possible attempt to bypass TABOR would be the latest in a series of recent efforts by the Democrats to aggressively counter state tax law. Earlier this year, they approved a $ 5.4 billion shipping finance program based on the very toll strategy they were able to use to lower refunds. They passed a temporary $ 200 billion property tax cut to thwart the much larger proposed property tax cut by a Conservative group.
And for the past two years they have each passed laws to cancel some tax credits – this is one thing that TABOR still leaves to lawmakers – in an effort to shift a few hundred million dollars from the more affluent to the needy.
However, there is a certain openness on the part of the GOP to certain democratic arguments about fiscal policy.
The 2020 proposal to ask voters to reformulate the state property tax equation was sponsored by both parties, as was this year’s property tax bill. Henderson Republican Senator Kevin Priola and Colorado Springs Republican Mayor John Suthers were two of the leading voices on the transportation finance bill.
Priola told the Post in June that lawmakers should not stand idly by if aspects of TABOR were to harm the state.
“I like TABOR,” Priola told the Post in June, “but TABOR is not a suicide pact.”