By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
Rolling back a hike in vehicle-registration fees, lowering energy costs, and reinforcing taxpayer rights are on their to-do list when the legislature convenes in January, say state Senate Republicans.
Those goals, unveiled this week as a “Pledge to Colorado Taxpayers,” represent the third installment of the Senate Republicans’ 2011 legislative agenda.
“This will ensure Colorado families have more of their hard-earned tax dollars while protecting vital government services,” said Senate GOP Caucus Chair Bill Cadman, of Colorado Springs.
The plan seeks to:
- Phase out an increase in vehicle-registration fees, contained in legislation dubbed “FASTER,” passed by the General Assembly in 2009;
- Repeal the Public Utility Commission’s authority to implement a much-debated, two-tiered rate structure for power;
- Change the law to make a clear and enforceable distinction between fees and taxes and requiring a super-majority vote for all fee increases;
- Guarantee that any tax increase proposed is brought to the people for a vote.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader John Morse, also of Colorado Springs, discounted the latest legislative foray by Republicans as impractical and too costly—safety-wise. Morse said that when FASTER was proposed, his caucus tried to get the Republicans to help them with it and they refused.
“There’s a debit side to the ledger and a credit side to the ledger,” said Morse. “We have unsafe bridges and Democrats came up with this plan (FASTER). The Republican plan says ‘public safety be damned! We’re going to save people $45 per year!’ How about solutions instead of just attacking the innovative solutions that have already been implemented?”
Morse said he also takes issue with the notion that fee increases merit a super-majority vote, stating that the higher standard would compromise democracy.
Critics of recent fee hikes have decried the increases as an end-run on TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment enacted into the state’s constitution in 1992. It requires all tax hikes and bonded debt to be put to a popular vote.
“Most of the people in Colorado believe in democracy and democracy is fifty percent plus one. Whenever you require a supermajority, you give the power away from democracy and empower the minority,” said Morse.
Yet, Cadman says taxpayers deserve more protections.
“Over-promising and overspending led Democrat lawmakers to continually circumvent taxpayer protections in our state constitution,” Cadman said. “It is time we rein in out-of-control spending and begin to budget to the core functions of government.”