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Colorado Taxpayers Suffer Loss at Supreme Court in RTD Lawsuit

Apr 23, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO.  A Colorado group that defends taxpayers’ rights learned today the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against it following oral arguments before the court on November 14, 2017.  With its ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgement of the Colorado Court of Appeals, which had upheld a ruling by a Denver County District Court that rejected the assertion that new taxes collected by three Colorado governmental entities without prior voter approval violate the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).  The TABOR Foundation alleged in its 2013 lawsuit that, under the Colorado Constitution, its members should have been allowed to vote on the new taxes the 2013 General Assembly authorized to be collected by the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).  The lawsuit named the RTD, the SCFD, and the Department of Revenue—government districts defined by TABOR—whose tax policies require voter approval.  TABOR Foundation, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), sought declaratory and injunctive relief and an order requiring refund of all revenues collected, plus interest, as TABOR requires. 

“We are disappointed that the Colorado Supreme Court continues to erode and undermine TABOR and the protections it provides to Colorado taxpayers, contrary to the will of the voters,” said William Perry Pendley of Mountain States Legal Foundation.

“The TABOR Foundation disagrees with the state that a tax on something that has not been taxed before is somehow not a new tax,” said Penn Pfiffner, chairman of the TABOR Foundation.  “Despite the court’s ruling, we have not changed our minds and are disappointed the court continues to expand loopholes that did not exist in the first place.  TABOR does not have a de minimis loophole, but somehow the court found one.” 

In 2013, the General Assembly enacted HB13-1272, which authorizes the RTD and SCFD, for the first time, to levy sales and use taxes on food, beverages, cigarettes, advertising materials, and food containers.  Both RTD and SCFD lobbied in support of the bill. 

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. RTD

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