Cleaning up the “Dirty Dozen” – Agriculture Tax repeal moves forward in state House

No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” – Mark Twain (1866)

Occasionally, however, the legislature can succeed in undoing previous acts putting one’s life, liberty, or property at risk…

State legislators made some progress this week towards repealing one of last year’s “Dirty Dozen” tax increases (which exploited a Colorado Supreme Court ruling to take more of your money without asking, as is required under the Colorado Constitution).

The “Dirty Dozen” was the name given to a package of twelve legislative bills which sought to increase tax revenues by eliminating existing tax credits or exemptions – an end-run around the constitutional requirement (in Article X, Section 20 – colloquially known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR) for “voter approval in advance for… any new tax, tax rate increase, or… tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district.”

Last year’s legislative majorities (Democrats dominated both chambers of the state General Assembly) were emboldened in their assault on the constitutional rights (and wallets) of Colorado citizens by an interpretation of the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling in the notorious “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” case (another unconstitutional tax increase, sanctioned by the court under the pretense that a rate “freeze” which collects more revenue doesn’t count as a tax increase for triggering that pesky constitutional requirement to receive “voter approval in advance”).  Solid legislative majorities, a compliant governor, and a complicit supreme court allowed them to take a bigger bite of your money without first (or ever) asking for permission.

Since the 2010 elections resulted in a shift of control of one legislative chamber (the state House of Representatives) and many members of the new majority campaigned on a promise to seek the repeal of these unconstitutional tax increases, progress towards the elimination of any one of these unconstitutional (and economy-killing) tax increases is welcome news.  Last week, HB 11-1005, Reinstate Tax Exemption for Ag Products (Sonnenberg/Brophy), which would repeal the 2.9 percent state sales and use tax on agricultural compounds, bull semen and pesticides that was (unconstitutionally) imposed by last year’s HB10-1195, Suspend Ag Sales & Use Tax Exemption (Ferrandino/Heath), passed the House with a bipartisan 48-17 vote and appears likely to pass the state Senate as well, according to this article (“Ag tax repeal passes state House“).

Repealing last year’s (unconstitutional) agricultural tax increase is a win both for the rule of law and Colorado consumers – since the tax indirectly raised the price of all food grown, raised, or otherwise produced in Colorado.  Noticed your grocery bill creeping up?  Last year’s tax increase is partially to blame; projected revenue gains of $1.5M have not been realized, while higher food costs are shifted to consumers.

Of course, had the Colorado Supreme Court stuck to its sworn duty to uphold the Colorado Constitution and the rule of law in the first place (instead of legislating from the bench), none of the “Dirty Dozen” would have been proposed, much less passed – and we wouldn’t need to pass more laws to repeal bad laws already enacted.

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work with legislators and others interested in reforming the systemic shortcomings of Colorado’s “merit selection & retention” system to increase transparency and accountability to the public, and to provide useful evaluations of judicial performance.

However, we can’t do it alone –  we need your continued support; via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions.  Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.

Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

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