No Surprise: Fighting Proposition CC By Lying To You

Here’s a mail piece that arrived over the weekend urging a “no” vote on Proposition CC, the statewide measure to allow the state to retain taxes collected in excess of the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights’ (TABOR) arbitrary limit on revenue growth–a provision that has made it counterintuitively more difficult for the state to provide for basic needs even in economic boom times.

Proposition CC, as we believe most of our readers know, pertains specifically to excess revenue collected over TABOR’s revenue growth limit. We are not talking about the income tax refunds that many Coloradans receive every year, and rely on through tax credits and the annual lump sum for essential income. The last time revenue growth was high enough to trigger TABOR refunds was 2015, and the average “payout” ranged from $13 to $41. This distinction is crucial for voters to understand, since Colorado is the only state with a law like TABOR that mandates such refunds, and most people don’t know enough about TABOR to avoid conflating TABOR refunds with the vastly larger annual income tax refunds of withholding overpayments to the federal and state government.

Unfortunately as you can see, conflating TABOR refunds with income tax refunds is exactly what Proposition CC’s opponents are doing to mislead voters–and this mailer is not an isolated incident. Yes, the mailer does use the words “TABOR tax refunds” on one line, but the very next line says Proposition CC is about “taking away your tax refund money” with no distinction between TABOR refunds and income tax refunds. Again, a large percentage of Colorado voters do not understand how TABOR refunds differ from the income tax refunds they depend on annually–but it’s a foregone conclusion that anyone who is honestly convinced Proposition CC will “take away your tax refund money” will vote against Proposition CC, since that would be an unprecedented seizure of both state and federal tax revenue by a state government.

It would also be illegal, and insane. But that doesn’t matter when you don’t have the facts.

In the end, we believe that this fundamentally misleading argument being successfully planted in the minds of low-information voters could result in large numbers of misguided “no” votes on Proposition CC. Factual or not, it is a very real threat, and it’s clear Proposition CC’s opponents intend to exploit this gap in voter knowledge to win. As we’ve observed countless times in Colorado politics, proving the old adage, “a lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is still getting its pants on.” Recent Colorado elections have been packed full of lies seeking to outrun the fact-checkers, from the racist “China Girl” attacks on Sen. Rachel Zenzinger’s to downright slanderous smears against Gov. Jared Polis on the campaign trail last year.

Those lies failed. But if Prop CC supporters don’t refute this lie just as vigorously, it’s going to hurt them.


27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Bright Bart says:

    if it is not a tax refund then it is a tax increase

  2. Pseudonymous says:

    By the way, it's fair to note that Pols' information is also a bit misleading.

    TABOR is a complicated beast, and the machinations that the legislature have gone through to thwart it are at least as complicated.  There have been a series of measures designed to make "refunds" in a way that prevents actually directly refunding much.  When Pols says "the average 'payout' ranged from $13 to $41," that's partially true, but devoid of the context necessary to describe what actually happened (or will happen next year, absent CC).  That $13 to $41 amount is only the "sales tax refund" portion of the overall TABOR rebate scheme.

    At the time of the 2015 tax year refund, the legislature had created a TABOR rebate scheme that funded an earned income tax credit for low-income taxpayers (it became permanent, which pulled it from the TABOR realm, the following year).  So, folks who received that got, on average, $217 in addition to the $13-ish dollars from the "sales tax rebate." That credit was more than half of the total amount "rebated."

    This go around, the rebate scheme includes funding the senior tax exemption (normally funded out of general revenue, or not, as the legislature decides) which was put into the TABOR refund pipeline by the SB-267 omnibus bill, and a temporary income tax reduction, also put in place by the legislature.  Only then is money actually sent to people via the sales tax rebate.

    In 2020 (tax year 2019), the following are components of the TABOR "rebate:"
    – Funding of the senior tax exemption ($600-700-ish for any house over $200,000 in value, less if lower –> about a third
    – An income tax rate reduction from 4.63 to 4.50 (from $10 to $629, depending on income) –> almost all the rest of the "rebate"
    – A sales tax rebate (based on income reported on the state income tax form and paid through that process), which will average about 50 cents –> a tiny piece of the rebate

    I can't remember if there's currently a lawsuit pending on the senior exemption piece, but there surely will be once the government tries to make a "refund" using it.

    • bullshit! says:

      Wait a minute, I was there in 2013 in I'm pretty sure the law making the state EITC permanent was passed that year. 2015 revenues may have triggered it but the point was to not have poor working folks live or die based on a TABOR cap. That's why it's permanent.

      • bullshit! says:

        Don't worry, I'm not important enough to have just outed myself. 🙂

      • Colorado Pols says:

        You are correct, uhm, Mr. Bullshit. The legislation creating a permanent state EITC was Senate Bill 13-001, signed by Gov. Hickenlooper on June 5, 2013. This legislation changed the EITC from an as-available TABOR refund to a permanent credit, more or less for the reasons you stated.

        • bullshit! says:

          That's what I thought, thanks Guvs! Senate Bill 1 even. I knew it was a big deal, and I remembered that making the EITC permanent instead of a  TABOR handout was the whole point. Helping working families shouldn't be a "rebate scheme," it should be a priority.

          Getting back to the main point: how is this as big a deal as telling voters Prop CC will "take their tax refunds?"

        • Pseudonymous says:

          It didn't.  It was a trigger bill.  Literally, that's what the statute section is called:

          39-22-123.5. Earned income tax credit – not a refund of excess state revenues – trigger – legislative declaration

          (3)  If a credit is allowed under section 39-22-123 for an income tax year commencing on or after January 1, 2013, the credit allowed under this section may be claimed for any income tax year beginning with the income tax year after the income tax year that the credit is allowed under section 39-22-123.

          If we’d never gone over the TABOR cap by enough to trigger the EITC, there wouldn’t be one.

      • Pseudonymous says:

        There was a bill passed in 2013 that said that once the TABOR threshold resulted in the state EITC being offered, the EITC would become a general obligation going forward, not subject to whether revenue was above the TABOR cap.

        That was triggered for the 2015 tax year, which caused the credit to become permanent, which pulled it from the TABOR realm, since it was now no longer a "refund" mechanism, from the following year on.

        • bullshit! says:

          Sorry friend, but the fact that this was passed two years before, which you didn't mention in your original post, undercuts your argument, which seems like a nit picky argument to begin with.

          Do you really think this is on the same level as telling people they're going to lose their tax refunds?

          • Pseudonymous says:

            You mean this, "it became permanent, which pulled it from the TABOR realm, the following year?"  How do you believe that's not what happened?

            As far as being nitpicky.  In a diary about how terms are being misused and circumstances being disingenuously construed, isn't that the point?

            • bullshit! says:

              Right on. You're a no vote on Prop CC, you're trolling, and this all makes sense now. yes

              Tell the no on CC campaign to stop lying about people's tax refunds, okay?

              • Pseudonymous says:

                I'm voting for CC, as I would to repeal TABOR in its entirety.  I've expressed my negative feelings about TABOR repeatedly here.

                But, since that's what you have left, sure.  CC BAD TABOR GOOD.

                • bullshit! says:

                  Good for you. Sometimes my troll radar is a bit off, usually not though.

                  • Voyageur says:

                    Sudafed is not in my fan club.  But he does his homework and knows TABOR as the fraud it is.  I respect his depth of knowledge.

                    • bullshit! says:

                      You're right, he's legit and he's obvs been around the block. I just remember the bill in 2013 distinctly so I knew he wasn't completely right about it happening "after 2015." This seems partly to be a matter of interpretation, and since I hate TABOR I'm all about fucking TABOR. 🙂

                      Good talk…

  3. unnamed says:

    And Con man Cory posted his opposition with the same lies.  Naturally.

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