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Coloradoans Win Right to Fight New Taxes

Feb 08, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

Rebecca Sopkin, Scott Rankin, and the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, may join lawsuit, rules court.

DENVER, CO.  Two individual taxpayers and a fellow taxpayer group today applauded the ruling of a Colorado district court that they may join in a lawsuit seeking to enforce the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).  The TABOR Foundation, also represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, initiated this lawsuit in 2015.  TABOR requires that voters, not politicians, decide when new taxes may be levied and when tax rates may be increased.  TABOR also limits the amount of revenue that the State may keep and spend in any year.  If the State’s revenues exceed that limit, TABOR requires a refund of the surplus revenue, unless voter approval is obtained to retain that money.  In December of 2017, the taxpayers and their association sought to join the lawsuit.

Since 2009, the State has levied and collected millions of dollars in charges from hospitals without first seeking voter approval.  The State actively sought to avoid compliance with TABOR by calling these charges “fees.”  In fact, these “fees” are taxes that cannot be levied without voter approval.  In a further effort to avoid compliance with TABOR, on May 30, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law S.B. 17-267, which created the “Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise” (CHASE).  Since July of 2017, CHASE has levied and collected the “fees” from the hospitals.  Enactment of S.B. 17-267 also eliminated an estimated $288.6 million refund that would have been due to taxpayers in FY 2018–19.

 “We are thrilled with the court’s ruling because our clients demonstrate the human impact of the State’s failure to comply with TABOR,” said William Perry Pendley president of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which represents the TABOR Foundation and the new plaintiffs seeking to join the lawsuit. 

Rebecca Sopkin and Scott Rankin, individual taxpayers, and the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation (CUT) seek to join the TABOR Foundation as plaintiffs to prevent the State from evading the requirements of TABOR.  Ms. Sopkin, Mr. Rankin, and CUT’s members would have been entitled to a taxpayer refund next year, but for the enactment of S.B. 17-267.

In June of 2015, the TABOR Foundation filed its challenge to the “hospital provider fee” in Denver County Court seeking to enjoin the levying and collecting of the “fee,” unless and until approved by the voters.  As of October 16, 2015, a motion by the Colorado defendants to dismiss the lawsuit had been briefed fully, but the matter was never argued or decided.  After Governor Hickenlooper signed S.B. 17-267 into law, the TABOR Foundation amended its complaint to challenge S.B. 17-267 and the creation of CHASE.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information: TABOR Foundation v. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy And Financing

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