The folly of Colorado Republicans’ special-session protest votes

The folly of Colorado Republicans’ special-session protest votes

A couple of months after Republicans burned down a particular session referred to as by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, the GOP lawmakers seem able to do the proper factor.

It’s not too little too late, but it surely raises severe questions on what the heck occurred final fall when 100 lawmakers from throughout the state had been referred to as again to Denver for 3 days of sudden work to repair a mistake that was costing 9 particular taxing districts about $9 million a 12 months. As an alternative of fixing the issue, Republicans in a committee voted to kill the invoice and everybody went house in two days with nothing to indicate for his or her time or the taxpayer cash that was spent opening the state Capitol.

Making an attempt to know Republican rationale for refusing to cross a invoice in October however apparently being hunky-dory OK with it in January is a bit like beating your head in opposition to the Gold Dome. However only for enjoyable, let’s go forward and endure some mind injury.

The primary inkling of opposition to Hickenlooper’s proposed repair got here from People for Prosperity, which mentioned adamantly that the proposed laws would violate the Taxpayer’s Invoice of Rights as a result of it amounted to a tax improve with no vote of the folks. The second spherical of opposition got here from Republican lawmakers who mentioned Hickenlooper had referred to as the particular session with out getting sufficient buy-in or consulting with sufficient GOP leaders. Let’s go forward and concede the latter level to Republicans: the governor clearly might have finished a greater job on the entrance finish of his failed particular session. However that’s not a very good motive to not get the work finished. That’s enjoying politics.

Technically, as I mentioned in a column on the time, AFP was proper that the language of TABOR prohibits any change to tax coverage that ends in a tax improve. Nevertheless, the Colorado Supreme Courtroom mercifully did some authorized wrangling on this very query in 2009 and dominated that the state might alter tax exemptions as wanted with out voter approval. The ramifications of rendering state authorities unable to ever alter tax exemptions, deductions and credit with out going to voters could be staggering. But when Republicans actually needed to carry that line, it’d at the least be an comprehensible place to take, albeit a really arduous one to take care of.

Quick-forward to January, and we be taught from Denver Put up reporter John Frank that lawmakers are hopeful a invoice will cross this session. Senate Invoice 88, which was launched by Rep. KC Becker, a Democrat, and Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican, would enable these districts, together with the Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Amenities District, to levy their gross sales taxes on marijuana gross sales as soon as once more.

“We’ve got a brand new answer,” mentioned Senate Majority Chief Chris Holbert, R-Parker, to Frank. “It’s a special idea, and I feel that you simply’ll see that it’s going to have considerably extra assist than what we noticed within the particular session.”

It’s probably not a special idea, although, at the least not one which will get Republicans out of the constitutional nook they’ve backed themselves into.

SB 88 says districts that levied a particular gross sales tax on marijuana gross sales previous to July 1, 2017, might proceed to take action, even though marijuana gross sales had been exempted from the final 2.9 p.c state gross sales tax in a invoice in 2017. Below state legislation, issues which are exempt from state gross sales tax — meals from a grocery retailer is the massive one — can’t be taxed by particular gross sales taxes both. So when lawmakers exempted marijuana from the statewide gross sales tax, it rendered particular districts unable to gather their taxes, too.

That proposed change in tax coverage — permitting particular districts to tax one thing that legislation in any other case exempted — is similar web improve on tax income being collected because the repair proposed in the course of the particular session, which might have reinstated the state gross sales tax on marijuana.

Name it what you’ll, however I name change to tax coverage leading to a rise in tax income.

I don’t imply to disparage the invoice — it’s truly a very good repair for an inadvertent income final result for essential voter permitted particular districts. However these political video games are wearisome and deserving of scrutiny.