Ques­tions about Tax­payer’s Bill of Rights and state en­ter­prise funds

The Denver Post - - NEWS - Re: David McDer­mott, Carl Miller,

“Memo mud­dles hos­pi­tal fee ef­fort; Cad­man says a TA­BOR ex­emp­tion is un­con­sti­tu­tional,” Jan. 7 news story; and “Yet more trou­ble for state bud­get,” Jan. 8 edi­to­rial.

The hair-split­ting con­tin­ues be­tween the branches of state govern­ment re­gard­ing the def­i­ni­tion of an en­ter­prise for the pur­poses of the Tax­payer’s Bill of Rights. The dis­cus­sion is way down in the weeds, with one side fo­cus­ing on what the­o­ret­i­cally con­sti­tutes an en­ter­prise and the other on the crip­pling re­sult of ap­ply­ing the TA­BOR sta­tus quo.

In fis­cal year 1993, the year af­ter TA­BOR was passed, state en­ter­prise fund rev­enues were ap­prox­i­mately 4.5 per­cent of to­tal state rev­enues. By fis­cal year 2014, con­ver­sions had grown that to about 28.4 per­cent. While pass­ing the le­gal test, many of the cur­rent en­ter­prises fail the man-on-thestreet “smell test.”

Be­fore we con­vert the en­tire state to en­ter­prise funds, shouldn’t we re­con­sider the state’s early TA­BOR de­ci­sion to have the Gen­eral Fund pay all re­funds? If in­stead ev­ery cash fund and en­ter­prise fund had to pay its own ex­cess rev­enue re­funds, the cit­i­zens and spe­cial in­ter­ests those funds rep­re­sent — such as higher education, busi­ness/un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance, hun­ters/ parks and wildlife, hospi­tals, and trans­porta­tion — would likely be clam­or­ing for real TA­BOR re­form rather than yet an­other leg­isla­tive fix to “man­age” the prob­lem.

Lake­wood The writer is a for­mer Colorado state con­troller.

BBB There is a sim­ple so­lu­tion to the on­go­ing de­bate and ar­gu­ment re­gard­ing TA­BOR and the use of hos­pi­tal provider fees. The anti-TA­BOR fac­tion would like the courts to de­cide the is­sue, while the proTABOR ad­vo­cates (my­self in­cluded) be­lieve it is a set­tled ques­tion and con­vert­ing the $750 mil­lion to an en­ter­prise fund is an ab­so­lute vi­o­la­tion of the TA­BOR amend­ment.

The beauty of TA­BOR is the fact that the fi­nal de­ci­sion could lie in the hands of the vot­ers. The vot­ers are and should be the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion mak­ers. The anti-TA­BOR group does not want to put the is­sue be­fore the vot­ers be­cause the out­come is pretty much pre­dictable and they would lose the ar­gu­ment. Con­versely, if the courts ruled against the pro-TA­BOR group, the re­sult would be a pro­tracted set of court ap­peals. Nei­ther op­tion pro­vides a speedy so­lu­tion.

It may take a year, but let­ting the vot­ers de­cide will ren­der the quick­est and most doubt­free de­ci­sion.

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