Devil’s Advocate

Life in the FASTER lane – updates on the Colorado Car Tax

Surely make you lose your mind…

The Colorado Car Tax (er, “fee”) increase – ironically dubbed ‘FASTER’ – passed in the 2009 legislative session made another lap in media coverage this past week with a broadcast on the ‘Devil’s Advocate‘ television program and publication of a pair of “Issue Backgrounder” papers.

The “Issue Backgrounder” papers each address a specific aspect of the FASTER legislation, focusing in on the “Bridge Enterprise” (a ‘government-owned business’ within the Colorado Department of Transportation, or CDOT).  One paper addresses how the “Bridge Enterprise” has raised $300M in debt without (constitutionally-required) voter approval (and the long-term implications for Colorado’s fiscal stability); the other more generally addresses how the Colorado Bridge Enterprise contravenes the Colorado Constitution.

Both papers are well worth reading, and provide additional detail on just how bad even this single aspect of the FASTER Colorado Car Tax (er, “fee”) is for Colorado citizens.

However, both papers together only tell half of the story (almost literally).  The ‘Colorado Bridge Enterprise’ is only one of two new ‘government-owed businesses’ established by the FASTER legislation (the other being the ‘Colorado Transportation Enterprise’ charged with collecting and spending the ‘road safety surcharge’ tax – er, “fee”) .  Both “enterprises” are overseen by an 11-member appointed (ergo, unaccountable to the public) board (coincidentally, the same 11 people who make up the Colorado Transportation Commission).  Significantly (although unfortunately unremarked in both papers), both ‘enterprises’ are also authorized to use eminent domain to seize private property.

The television broadcast is informative and entertaining as well, but unfortunately also misses significant parts of the story.

The Colorado Car Tax – It’s Worse Than You Think

Also unremarked in both papers – and on the television broadcast as well – is the fact that FASTER actually comprises multiple tax increases (er, “fees”) in a single piece of legislation, blatantly violating the constitutional requirements to “receive voter approval in advance” for “any new tax, mill levy above that for the prior year, valuation for assessment ratio increase for a property class, or extension of an expiring tax, or a tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district.” (Colorado Constitution, Article X, Section 20 – the ‘Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’).  The “bridge fund fee” and the “road safety surcharge fee” increase each year for three years (yep, that’s 3 tax increases in one!), in addition to imposing an entirely separate “fee” on car rentals as well.  Oh, and don’t forget the “late fees” too…

But all of this is necessary “to preserve our crumbling transportation infrastructure,” right?  That was the justification for passing the bill – along with claims that any and all “fees” collected “shall be used exclusively for the construction, maintenance, and supervision of the public highways of the state.”   Says so right in the legislative language (43-4-810), so it must be true, correct?

Not so much.  The dirty little secret of the FASTER bill is that many of the taxes (er, “fees”) collected don’t go towards the construction or maintenance of roads or bridges at all, but for “multi-modal and demand-side transportation solutions” – such as the desire of certain state Senators for streetcars in Denver – justified by other language in a following section (43-4-812):

43-4-812. Use of user fees for transit – legislative declaration.
(2) THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HEREBY FINDS AND DECLARES THAT THE FUNDING OF TRANSIT-RELATED PROJECTS AUTHORIZED BY SUBSECTION (1) OF THIS SECTION CONSTITUTES MAINTENANCE AND SUPERVISION OF STATE HIGHWAYS BECAUSE IT WILL HELP TO REDUCE TRAFFIC ON STATE HIGHWAYS AND THEREBY REDUCE WEAR AND TEAR ON STATE HIGHWAYS AND BRIDGES AND INCREASE THEIR RELIABILITY, SAFETY, AND EXPECTED USEFUL LIFE.

In fact, the bill MANDATES state spending of $10 Million per year on “transit-related projects.”

It’s an outrageous semantic shell game – and a blatant violation of your constitutional rights.

To sum up: the “FASTER” car tax increase raised vehicle registration fees by $22.50-55 per vehicle, including a “road safety surcharge fee” of $16-$39 per vehicle, PLUS a “bridge fund fee” of $13-$32 per vehicle (phased in at 50%/75%/100% each of the first 3 years ).  Plus mandatory “late fees” of $25/month (capped at $100) – for all “vehicles” (including trailers barely even worth that much).

All while creating two new ‘government-owned’ bureaucracies with power to spend, borrow, & seize private property unconstrained by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and not accountable to the people.

Oh, and increasing mandatory spending by over $10 Million per year on purposes other than roads, bridges, or other transportation infrastructure used by those paying the “fees.”

Most of the politicians who did this to you – including Governor Bill RitterSenate sponsor Dan Gibbs, and House sponsor Joe Rice – have paid the political price, either quitting office or being defeated at the ballot box; however, the real culprits, without whom none of this would have been possible (thanks to a Nov. 2008 court ruling to allow “fees” to act like taxes, in violation of your constitutional rights) escaped justice (except for Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who quit rather than face the voters, the remaining members of the Colorado Supreme Court who aided and abetted FASTER were retained in office for another 10-year term).

Unfortunately, these politicians in black robes remain ‘at large’ and able to continue to assault your constitutional rights for years to come.

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 to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive 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.

One More Week to Vote – Clear The Bench Colorado, judicial retention elections and the Colorado Supreme Court in the news

Only one more week to exercise your right to vote NO on 3 incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices seeking another 10-year term…

Over the last week or so, Clear The Bench Colorado and the judicial retention elections for the 3 incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices on this year’s ballot (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice) have been in the news a lot.

On Sunday (October 17th), Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold appeared on the Your Show television program (moderated by Adam Schrager), debating former Colorado Supreme Court justice (and current full-time activist) Jean Dubofsky, representing the “Colorado Judiciary Project” (a legal-establishment special-interest group formed by Democrat state party attorney and  Mark Grueskin.

On Monday (October 18th), the Colorado Supreme Court took aim at gun rights in Colorado by accepting the CU Regents appeal of a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling overturning an illegal ban of licensed concealed-carry on CU property (a policy that is violating state law).

On Thursday (October 21st), Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold spoke at the Southern Colorado Tea Party, recorded and made available courtesy of FreedomTalkNet.

On Friday morning (Oct 22nd), Clear The Bench Colorado released our list of endorsements (which has since grown – and continues to grow)

On Friday evening, October 22nd (rebroadcast Monday afternoon, October 25th), Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold appeared on the Devil’s Advocate television program (hosted by Jon Caldara) in what was originally planned as a debate (but the other side chickened out).

On Saturday (October 23rd), Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold was published nationwide in Human Events magazine (“Fighting the “Progressive” Takeover of State Courts“)

On Sunday (October 24th), the Denver Post published a guest commentary by Jean Dubofsky (“Keep integrity of Colorado’s courts“) attacking Clear The Bench Colorado with a veritable litany of misleading insinuations and demonstrably false statements.  After requesting the opportunity  to respond or rebut the falsehoods (as has been the policy of the Post in the past when a person or group is directly attacked) but being refused, CTBC published our response (“RESTORE Integrity to Colorado Courts“) earlier today (Wednesday).

On Monday (October 25th), the Associated Press ran a story about Clear The Bench Colorado (“Clear The Bench Tests Judicial Retention System”) that was picked up in newspapers around the country, from San Francisco (Examiner) to Indiana (Daily Journal) to West Virginia (Charleston Gazette), to name the most geographically dispersed examples; nationally in USA Today; and yes, even in the Denver Post.

On Tuesday (October 26th), Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold appeared on the Luke Shilts Show (1310 AM KFKA) at 5-5:30 PM (podcast pending).

Later Tuesday evening, Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold appeared on the Michael Brown show (850 KOA) from 7-7:30PM – if you missed it (or just want to hear it again) Listen to the show.

What’s in store for the final week before elections close?  Stay tuned for more exciting news…

Be a citizen, not a subject – get informed, then exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” – (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, soon minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey,  who’s resigning rather than face the voters ) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Continue to support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold discusses judicial retention elections on TV – Devil’s Advocate with Jon Caldara

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold appeared on the Devil’s Advocate TV program (with host Jon Caldara) this past Friday, 22 October 2010 at 8:30 and again (rebroadcast) on Monday, 25 October at 1:30 PM, to discuss judicial retention elections and the drive to hold 3 incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice) who are seeking another 10-year term in office accountable to the voters in this year’s elections.

Despite the intent to have a debate on the issue, the other side failed to show up (despite numerous invitations, to all the usual suspects).  Apparently after CTBC’s Matt Arnold had the better of former Colorado Supreme Court justice (and current full-time activist) Jean Dubofsky, representing the “Colorado Judiciary Project” (a legal-establishment special-interest group formed by Democrat state party attorney Mark Grueskin) in their debate on Adam Schrager’s Your Show the previous Sunday (which was NOT originally scheduled as a debate; Dubofsky showed up with no advance notice to CTBC) they didn’t feel confident in their ability to win a fair fight.

Or perhaps they realized that the more information the voters have, the more they are likely to vote NO on the incumbent justices on the ballot (a fact validated in CTBC’s August survey).  These special-interest groups are counting on (and promoting) voter ignorance – pushing the rubber-stamp “reviews” (which again kept up their historical record of 100% “retain” recommendations for Colorado Supreme Court justices this year) of the performance review commissions.  That’s right; Colorado Supreme Court justices “reviewed” by the commissions have received a “retain” vote 100% of the time.

Fortunately, Colorado voters now have a more complete and substantive source of information about the performance of the incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices appearing on this year’s ballot: CTBC’s Evaluations of Judicial Performance scorecard, which breaks down the votes of each justice in key constitutional cases (along with complete references, analysis, and commentary on each case).

The discussion covered the voting records of the incumbent justices, the established selection and “review” process (along with the weaknesses in the current process & need for greater transparency and accountability reforms) and the massively funded electioneering effort by a consortium of legal-establishment special-interest groups to promote a “yes” vote for the judicial incumbents.

The video is broken into 3 10-minute segments, as follows:

For what may be the first time in Colorado history, voters have the opportunity to review substantive information on judicial performance and have the ability to make an informed decision about whether or not to hold incumbent justices (and judges) accountable for that performance as they seek an additional term of office (for the Colorado Supreme Court justices, they are asking the voters for another 10 YEARS on the bench).

Be a citizen, not a subject – get informed, then exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” – (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, soon minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey,  who’s resigning rather than face the voters ) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Continue to support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

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