County reverses stance on TABOR

Mesa County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to immediately resume inclusion of county sales tax dollars in a tally subject to provisions of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

TABOR limits the amount of tax revenue a government body in Colorado can collect before tax dollars are refunded to taxpayers. In 2007, the county began excluding sales tax from the formula used to calculate whether taxpayers were due a refund under TABOR. It is the only county in Colorado that has held onto sales tax revenue that may have been subject to a refund without a public vote.

The decision to exclude sales tax from TABOR calculations was based on solicited advice from Denver attorney Dee Wisor, who suggested sales tax may be free from TABOR limitations because locals voted to approve a county sales tax in 1981, 11 years before TABOR became law.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said Monday he and then-commissioners Craig Meis and Janet Rowland did not take a formal vote but agreed unanimously to take Wisor’s advice and advise staff to start excluding sales tax from TABOR calculations.

Earlier this month, Rowland told The Daily Sentinel she did not participate in the decision and would not approve of the sales tax exclusion then or now. Meis said he does not recall if there was ever a specific meeting about the idea.

On Monday, Acquafresca said he’s not convinced the sales tax exemption was right or wrong and he may ask legislators to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to review the question.

He also reiterated his stance that all three commissioners were involved in approving the exemption.

“The really easy thing for me to do would be to say I didn’t remember (any meetings) either,” he said. “That would be dishonest. Had I ever went that way, people would question my integrity.”

The integrity of the county’s actions was called into question during public testimony, when eight citizens questioned how the 2007 decision was made and how its impacts would be addressed.

The formula’s revenue cap is based on population growth and inflation and makes a refund less likely in a weak economy, but Mesa County’s economy was still thriving the year the decision was made.

Mesa County Finance Director Marcia Arnhold said the county has not exceeded the cap for a TABOR refund this year or in the past four years, which she said is the time limit for retroactive refunds under the TABOR statute of limitations.

Former Commissioner John Crouch said he understands the time limit but called not addressing possible lost refunds “unscrupulous.”

“Are you just going to dispense with that refund and say, ‘Well, we’re sorry’?” Crouch asked commissioners.

Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she may never know what happened in 2007, and she will struggle with how to make the 6-year-old decision right when the statute of limitations allows commissioners to ignore those first two years without sales tax built into TABOR calculations.

“If I were there in 2007, it really wouldn’t be enough (evidence) to convince me,” Pugliese said, referring to Wisor’s opinion. “From today forward, we definitely need to include sales tax.”

Commissioner John Justman said the legality of the sales tax decision “is not black and white,” but his preference is to add sales tax into TABOR calculations.

Acquafresca did not say whether he supports the county’s original actions but said he would side with Pugliese and Justman, given community response to the issue and the county’s need to move forward with the budget year.

Wednesday morning, Grand Junction City Council members will discuss their exclusion of a three-quarter cent sales tax approved in 1989 from TABOR calculations. City voters approved using tax revenue over TABOR limits for Riverside Parkway construction debt payments in 2007.

City officials declined last week to say when they began excluding sales tax from TABOR calculations, pending Wednesday’s meeting at 8:30 a.m. in the City Hall auditorium.


COMMENTS

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You’ve gotta love it: another Mesa County political soap opera. So who is the biggest liar?
Always remember, “politics” = person or group A trying to persuade person or group B to obey the will of A, most frequently for the personal financial benefit of A and to the personal financial detriment (higher taxes) of B. That is why deception = the so-called “art” of politics. That is also why “politician” = professional deceiver, and why “political” = deception-based, or having to do with deception. Everybody is competing for political power to steal labor and money out of the “other guy’s” pocket and put it in their own. Politicians get votes by promising to be all things to all people. Because fulfilling that promise is a physical impossibility, most of their promises of necessity get broken. Because all politicians know this in advance, they are ALL liars and/or manipulators to one degree or another.
What gets lost in America’s “progressive” police-state culture is the obvious fact that when “the people” amend their constitution, that amendment becomes the constitution. That amendment IS the constitution. The only jurisdiction a supreme court has is to determine if the constitutional procedures for amendments was properly followed. The judiciary has no jurisdiction over the substance of such amendments. That substance is the will of the people, which is legally binding on the people’s judiciaries.
Of course, games can be played with these principles. For example, a state court could argue that the substance of an amendment to a state constitution is subject to the federal constitution. Fine. And cutesy. The bottom line principle remains the same. If “the people” of the United States, per Article V, amend the federal constitution, the substance of that amendment IS the Constitution, and is beyond the jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court to unilaterally amend via strategic misinterpretation. The Supremes would have jurisdiction only over the issue of whether or not the provisions of Article V were properly followed.
Any other cutesy-pie view makes a lie of Article II, Section 1 of the Colorado Constitution: “That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
The criminally insane notion that it somehow violates the “republican” form of government if state legislatures are not permitted to ignore state constitutions and simply tax the people at will is anathema to intellectual honesty, traditional moral values and individual freedom.

I would take my defense of individual freedom and the U.S. and Colorado constitutions one step farther. In the preambles of both founding documents is the language “ordain and establish”. Logically implicit in the words, “We the People of the United States ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” and “We, the people of Colorado ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the ‘State of Colorado” is the principle that if we the people can “ordain and establish” state and federal constitutions, we can darn well understand what’s in them, what they mean, and what their authors intended without having a self-anointed government-granted-monopoly group of elitist political manipulators and deceivers (aka the so-called “legal profession”) strategically, routinely, and unilaterally misinterpret them for us.
I would like to publicly thank John Crouch for the fine work he has done in exposing the anti-TABOR shenanigans in good-old-boy-corrupted Mesa County.
I find the “statements” of Steve Acquafresca, Craig Meis and Janet Rowland amusing at best. If Rowland is telling the truth, where is her outrage at being so seriously lied about? Meanwhile, cutesy Meis, in the politicians’ best time-honored wannabe-clever style doesn’t “recall” what the truth is. (Everybody who believes that whopper, please raise your hand. I’ve got some oceanfront property in Mack I want to sell you real cheap!) And the clueless Acquafresca somehow thinks it is more honest to “fess up” to his dishonest anti-TABOR manipulations than to deny or “forget” them. Meanwhile, by “unanimously agreeing” to the 2007 manipulation at the time, and then “unanimously” voting against it in 2013, he appears to not know right from wrong, and to be just another finger-in-the-wind manipulator who, for good measure, is proud that he has maintained his “integrity”. You can’t make this kind of stuff up, folks!
While we’re at it, let’s dispose of the idiocy that some hired-gun lawyer’s opinion is somehow magically a “legal opinion” for the purposes of a county commission’s formal governmental actions (or remotely honest journalism, for that matter). Chief Justice Warren Burger said over 90% of the lawyers who argued cases in front of him were incompetent. A court’s formal written decision or that of a state attorney general would constitute a “legal opinion”.
Hopefully, Mesa County’s duopoly voters will never consider any of the aforementioned three stooges for any government job again. Ever.

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