Friday, February 27, 2009

Marriage Tax

Senator Tax Morse is back raising taxes and calling them fees by this time taxing marriage.

The current charge for a marriage license is $10. Seven dollars goes the local county clerk for handling the transaction and the other three dollars is spent on state record keeping of the data.

That’s just what a government fee is supposed to do, cover the cost of administering the program.

Along comes Senator Morse with a strong desire to find a way to fund domestic violence programs in the state, so what does he do? Increase the fee on a marriage license from $10 to $30 and convert that additional twenty bucks into domestic violence funding.

Never mind that married couples are three times less likely to have domestic violence issues. Never mind that fees are supposed to be related to the cost of the program. He just wants the money.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Car Tax

Senator Morse (D-Colorado Springs) added an additional buck to each car registration for a grant program for emergency services.

Of course, administering the grant program will require three brand new state employees. Take a look at the fiscal note for SB09-002. You can see that this grant program already exists and has about $2.9 million available each year, but adding another $4.9 million to it will require more state employees. Why can’t the existing employees dole out the money? This can’t be that hard; I’m absolutely positive that existing staff can write more checks.

The additional new employees isn’t the only insulting part of the tax (fee) increase. Only 11% of emergency service calls go to car wrecks. Eleven percent. Eighty nine percent of the time our car registration will be subsidizing other emergency services.

Will this ever end?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Paper or Plastic

We killed the Plastic Bag Reduction Act on Tuesday.

The bill would have taxed plastic bags at grocery stores and other large stores six cents each bag for the next three years and then banned the plastic bags altogether in 2012.

I know, don’t we have more important things to do? Well, yes, but Senator Veiga introduced the bill and under our Constitution, it had to have a hearing.

The background story is this: the idea was brought by a bunch of high school kids who have been brain washed about the importance of saving the environment from humans since grade school. So they decided to rid the earth of the scourge of plastic bags.

The problem is that the alternative of convenience, for those times when folks forget to bring their canvas bags is paper and paper actually fills up land fills three times faster than plastic bags, plus bringing the paper bags to the stores takes three times as many trucks!

Talk about unintended consequences.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Negative Supplementals

Last week in the Senate we passed 37 budget balancing bills to address this year’s $600 million revenue shortfall.

Now remember, we have a budget that runs in the $18 billion dollar range so let’s keep $600 million in perspective.

Most of the bills reduced expenditures in 20 or so departments of state government. For instance, the Agriculture Department took a reduction of $470,000 and the Department of Higher Education took a reduction of $30 million.

The big fights came over a bill that converted cash reserves to general fund and a bill that reduced the reserve account from about $300 million to $150 million.

The cash fund conversion is from specific fees and taxes like the workers compensation cash fund or severance tax fund to general fund where it can be spent on anything. It’s kind of like raiding all your savings accounts to pay your monthly bills. In total, it amounted to $236 million. I voted against it because I think we should be reducing spending, not propping it up like this.

We do need to recognize that during the last recession, the GOP led legislature did the same thing. I voted against it then too.

I also voted against the bill that reduced the reserve account which lets the Legislature spend that $150 million to backfill against lost revenue. It’s what the reserve account should be used for, but I think it would be a lot smarter to hold onto that money until next year, because I think we may need it.

Finally, the federal “stimulus” bill will send several hundred million to Colorado to be used to prop up Medicaid expenditures and education expenditures. It’s truly a shame that we will wrack up huge debt for our children and grandchildren to prop up mostly social spending today.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Car Tax IV

The Car Tax has passed the House Transportation and Appropriations Committees with only minor changes. It will now go to the floor of the House for final passage.

So far, no Republican has voted for the bill. You can see the vote from House Approps here, and the vote from House Trans here. In the Senate two Democrats voted against the bill.

I flipped through the committee reports from the House. The changes look like minor stuff related to ride sharing cars being charged as regular owned cars instead of rental cars which get slapped with and extra $2 a day charge and exemptions to the car tax for some collectors’ cars.

Rumor has it that the leaders of the Democrat House and Senate have secured enough votes to have the car tax bill pass the House. If they are right, the only way to stop this bill is to contact the Governor and ask him to veto the bill.

I do not think there is any way that Governor Ritter will veto this as it is really his idea, but it is worth a try; he’s been inconsistent in the past.

Contact his office by calling 303.866.2471 or email him through this link.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Technology Gap

We had a bit of a tussle over the use of computers on the floor of the Colorado Senate yesterday.

You can read the Lyn Bartels’ story in the Rocky about it for all the information. But the bottom line is that the Democrats thought we were being fed questions to ask one of their weak members by an outsider. We weren’t; we are capable of thinking on our own.

Either way, I can’t understand why using the tools of modern technology upsets the Democrats in the Senate so much. Do they want us to go back to pencils and paper? I’d hate to do without Google for finding information on the quick and I’d rather search on my computer for a bill than rifle through my file cabinet.

I’m afraid that there is going to be an attempt force us to shut our computers off for the period that we are engaged in third reading and our final votes on bills. I hope not, because the rules are clear, we can have our computers on, but have to disconnect them from the Internet.

Here’s what the rules say:
(b) (1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) (2) of this
rule, all wireless electronic devices including, but not limited
to telephone and such other communication devices used for
transmitting and receiving voice or data communications,
including but not limited to electronic mail and text
messaging, shall be rendered inoperable in the Senate
chambers, in the hearings of Senate committees, in Senate
party caucuses, or in any other official meetings of Senate
members held in the Capitol or the Legislative Services
(2) Laptop or notebook personal computers may be used in the
Senate chambers, in the hearings of Senate committees, in
Senate party caucuses, or in any other official meetings of
Senate members held in the Capitol or the Legislative
Services Building; however, during the third reading of bills
in the Senate chambers, laptop or notebook personal
computers shall be rendered inoperable for the purpose of
transmitting and receiving voice or data communications, including but not limited to electronic mail and text
(3) Wireless telephones and audible pagers or similar electronic
devices shall not be used in the Senate chambers or in the
gallery of the Senate chambers.

I certainly hope that we can have a bi-partisan solution to solving the Senate technology gap. We really should do away with these rules and come into the 21st Century.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Car Tax III

Governor Ritter’s car tax, called FASTER, is stalled in the Colorado House.

I do not believe that any of the House Republicans are planning to vote for it, and I keep hearing that many of the House Dems are opposed too.

Think about it, the Dems from Adams County for instance, are in a tough spot; their completely Democrat Board of County Commissioners voted to oppose the plan. Ref C failed in Adams County in 2005. Senator Lois Tochtrop from Adams County already voted against FASTER in the Senate.

I wouldn’t want to go to a town meeting up there and explain how a quarter of a billion dollar tax increase during a recession is a good idea.

We’ll see if the Governor has the ability to exercise some political leadership to force his plan through the completely Democrat controlled Colorado House where there are 37 Democrats and 28 Republicans. It takes 33 to pass a bill.

This is like our own little local version of Obama’s effort to pass the stimulus.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Car Tax II

It is interesting that SB108 is being held out as economic stimulus and job producing or job protecting.

It isn’t either in reality.

The federal infrastructure stimulus package requires that the money be spent on “shovel ready” projects. If you don’t have shovel ready projects, you don’t get the federal money.

Now, remember that the federal money is actually just borrowed from our kids and grandkids; we have to pay it back some day.

If SB108 money is actually used now to build roads and bridges and keep those workers employed, it has to be used on “shovel ready” projects.

So if we use SB108 money we can’t use the federal money; we have to turn it back. Our kids and grandkids will be saddled with the federal debt for nothing and our state taxes will have gone up.

What a ridiculous idea.

SB108 isn’t job creating; it isn’t economic stimulus; it is a massive tax increase on citizens during a recession, the worst recession in three decades.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Car Tax SB108

Blog Post Car Tax

The Democrats are proposing a series of fee increases to raise revenue (taxes) for transportation in Colorado this year.

The plan includes registration fee increases, a new tolling authority, an effort to institute a charge for how many miles you drive, called a MBR or mileage base revenue, and an additional two dollars per day on each rental car rented in Colorado.

The tolling would be allowed anywhere the local governments wanted tolling to be allowed. The MBR is designed to become a new way to raise money for roads in the future. The big hit right now is the registration increase which will be $41 to $51 for most cars every year.

Yes, we need to spend more on our roads. I’ve offered many ways to do that without raising taxes.

I just can’t believe that anyone would think that it is okay to raise taxes (fees) by $260 million a year during a recession.

Haven’t they studied the Great Depression? Does anyone understand basic economics?

This is easy to grasp: when you have lost your job, you don’t start a major renovation project on your house. You fix what you absolutely have to fix, but you concentrate on the really important stuff, like feeding the kids and paying the light bill. Eventually you’ll get back on your feet and can start tackling the big projects.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

We will come out of this recession sooner or later; I hope sooner.

Then we will have increasing revenue and we need to properly prioritize it so that our infrastructure is taken care of.

Monday, February 2, 2009

dualing resolutions

We heard two resolutions today on the floor of the Colorado Senate.

The first SR09-008 by Senator Newell recognized a season of non-violence. It was mostly a feel-good waste of time for the “give peace a chance” crowd.

I voted for it, heck, I’ll give peace a chance. There were a handful of Republicans who voted against it, though. For my part, I like peace. I don’t really care whether you leave me alone because you are a benevolent person or you know that I will answer your violence with even greater force, as long as you leave me alone. Seems like a workable system.

Then we heard a fairly vanilla resolution, SR09-009 by Senator Foster supporting Israel in the current struggle with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It clearly stated our support for Israel, but also lamented the loss of life on both sides, without blaming Hamas for launching missiles from schools and hospitals.

I see this issue as black and white; Israel is right and should have our support in stopping the rockets that rain down on innocent civilians in the area around Gaza.

I made a few comments about the nature of this battle as one, not over territory, but over the very existence of the only freedom-loving nation in that part of the world. A few others made similar comments and we voted.

Senator “give peace a chance” Newell and one other voted against the resolution supporting Israel.

So I used a parliamentary procedure to bring Newell’s resolution up so that I could run an amendment to it to ask that a copy of the Season of Nonviolence resolution be sent to Hamas.

Senator Newell and all of the Democrats voted against that.