.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Kerr’s battle over Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights clears legal hurdle

-A A +A
By Ramsey Scott

A group that includes state Sen. Andy Kerr cleared a legal hurdle recently in its battle to have Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights ruled unconstitutional.

In the federal lawsuit, Kerr, D-South Jeffco, is a plaintiff along with a handful of other lawmakers and members of the educational community. The suit claims TABOR has deprived Coloradans of the republican form of government guaranteed in Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution.    

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 7 agreed with a 2012 ruling that Kerr and the other plaintiffs have standing to sue Gov. John Hickenlooper over the TABOR amendment. 

TABOR, approved in 1992 by Colorado voters, requires voter approval for any tax increase and limits state spending via a formula based on revenues. 

“We’re pleased with the ruling, and we’re not at all surprised,” Kerr said. “I think (the reason I joined the lawsuit) is all of the examples of how TABOR has tied the hands of the legislature and taken the citizen’s right to one of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. 

“When I took an oath as a senator, I took an oath to defend both the United States and the Colorado constitutions, and where they conflict, I have to go with the United State Constitution.”

Kerr said TABOR has led to Colorado being 49th in state and local funding for higher education and 43rd in per-pupil spending on K-12 public schools. The amendment also has produced many unintended consequences, Kerr said, including the possibility of having to refund taxes collected on retail marijuana purchases. 

Current projections from the state predict Colorado will collect $100 million in tax revenue from retail marijuana sales this year. Since voter-approved Amendment 64 predicted $60 million annually in tax revenue, Colorado might have to reduce the voter-approved tax rate on sales to limit taxes collected to $60 million, ask voters to approve spending the additional revenue, or refund the difference. 

“Those are all examples of what TABOR has caused here in Colorado,” Kerr said. “It’s just one more example of what some people would call unintended consequences, but what I call intended consequences.”

But not everyone sees TABOR as the cause of inadequate educational funding. Some say it’s the reason the state ended fiscal 2012 with a budget surplus. 

“TABOR is the will of the people, and until the people change it, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the courts or the legislature to try and modify that law because it’s inconvenient for their need to spend the money on another program,” said Bill Tucker, chair of the Jeffco Republican Party. “(Lawmakers) have a $1 billion surplus, and instead of investing it in infrastructure or higher education, they’ve decided to give raises to state employees.”

Tucker said the Colorado Constitution specifically gives residents the power to add amendments, and that any resulting restraints on the legislature were intended. 

“That’s where the republican form of government comes up. They have to respond to us, the voters,” Tucker said. 

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, representing Hickenlooper, hasn’t announced whether he will appeal the recent decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. Visit www.columbinecourier.com. 

By Ramsey Scott

Staff Writer

A group that includes state Sen. Andy Kerr cleared a legal hurdle recently in its battle to have Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights ruled unconstitutional.

In the federal lawsuit, Kerr, D-South Jeffco, is a plaintiff along with a handful of other lawmakers and members of the educational community. The suit claims TABOR has deprived Coloradans of the republican form of government guaranteed in Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution.    

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 7 agreed with a 2012 ruling that Kerr and the other plaintiffs have standing to sue Gov. John Hickenlooper over the TABOR amendment. 

TABOR, approved in 1992 by Colorado voters, requires voter approval for any tax increase and limits state spending via a formula based on revenues. 

“We’re pleased with the ruling, and we’re not at all surprised,” Kerr said. “I think (the reason I joined the lawsuit) is all of the examples of how TABOR has tied the hands of the legislature and taken the citizen’s right to one of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. 

“When I took an oath as a senator, I took an oath to defend both the United States and the Colorado constitutions, and where they conflict, I have to go with the United State Constitution.”

Kerr said TABOR has led to Colorado being 49th in state and local funding for higher education and 43rd in per-pupil spending on K-12 public schools. The amendment also has produced many unintended consequences, Kerr said, including the possibility of having to refund taxes collected on retail marijuana purchases. 

Current projections from the state predict Colorado will collect $100 million in tax revenue from retail marijuana sales this year. Since voter-approved Amendment 64 predicted $60 million annually in tax revenue, Colorado might have to reduce the voter-approved tax rate on sales to limit taxes collected to $60 million, ask voters to approve spending the additional revenue, or refund the difference. 

“Those are all examples of what TABOR has caused here in Colorado,” Kerr said. “It’s just one more example of what some people would call unintended consequences, but what I call intended consequences.”

But not everyone sees TABOR as the cause of inadequate educational funding. Some say it’s the reason the state ended fiscal 2012 with a budget surplus. 

“TABOR is the will of the people, and until the people change it, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the courts or the legislature to try and modify that law because it’s inconvenient for their need to spend the money on another program,” said Bill Tucker, chair of the Jeffco Republican Party. “(Lawmakers) have a $1 billion surplus, and instead of investing it in infrastructure or higher education, they’ve decided to give raises to state employees.”

Tucker said the Colorado Constitution specifically gives residents the power to add amendments, and that any resulting restraints on the legislature were intended. 

“That’s where the republican form of government comes up. They have to respond to us, the voters,” Tucker said. 

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, representing Hickenlooper, hasn’t announced whether he will appeal the recent decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. Visit www.columbinecourier.com.