- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Aurora Sentinel, July 2, on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights:

It seemed like such a good idea at the time: Let voters decide tax hikes since it seemed lawmakers just couldn’t say ‘no.’

Of course the entire scheme behind the misleading Taxpayer Bill of Rights, dubbed TABOR, was built on lies and deceptions.

The anti-tax state constitutional amendment was the brainchild of Colorado Springs oddity Douglas Bruce. Bruce played to growing anti-government sentiment back in the early 1990s, persuading people that state government spending and taxes were out of control, and the only hope would be to take away the power of the purse from state and local officials. Stung by growing federal spending, confused and misled state voters agreed, not understanding that Colorado then had one of the lowest accumulative tax burdens in the country. Colorado has never been a spendthrift state.

But in 1992, Colorado voters, hearing that there was only one way to slow the draw on their paychecks, agreed to the nonsense of TABOR.

If the measure only required voter approval for tax hikes, things wouldn’t be so bad.

But the convoluted and labyrinthine measure does so much more. It not only caps taxes, but it caps spending. Part of the amendment sets government services at a baseline, so that when budgets decrease in lean tax years, a new, lower baseline is set, creating the dreaded, so-called ratchet-down effect.

The real effect of the measure has been to diminish Colorado schools and roads. Despite having one of the healthiest economies in the country, the state can’t afford to properly maintain or build new roads, run schools or keep colleges competitive and affordable.

The insult to injury of TABOR is back: Colorado must now refund hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to state residents, despite the widespread public needs. Part of the measure requires “refunds” when state revenues grow and exceed a bizarre formula involving the rate of inflation and population growth. The refunds at this point will probably be far less than $20 for the average taxpayer.

This week, buried in a flurry of epic Supreme Court rulings, the high court also forced the local 10th Circuit Court of appeals to take another look at a lawsuit filed by state legislators in regards to TABOR. The argument is that the state government charges lawmakers with taxation as representatives of a republic, and TABOR illegally prohibits that.

We agree. If a lawmaker wants to spend more than taxpayers want, out the lawmaker. Instead, Colorado voters have created a system that doesn’t allow them to steer the government along a winding and treacherous economic road. It’s long been a disaster in the making.

After more than 20 years of TABOR, Colorado’s ranking among taxation has changed little. What has changed is that money desperately needed for state programs hasn’t been raised, so the growing debt is not the state budget, but in the state’s roads, schools and colleges.

It could well be that the courts finally enforce the laws of republican government in Colorado and end the mess that TABOR has created. But fans of cumbersome taxation could stave this controversy themselves by repealing the current version of TABOR with one that simply requires voter approval for some or all tax hikes.

It would be the best advice to restore Colorado government to the one that’s made the state so successful and enviable, but at the very least, untie the hands of every city, county and school district. Allow the state to avoid becoming marginal at best or risking disaster we can’t stop.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1Hb5QBz


The Greeley Tribune, July 3, on the Obama administration’s overtime pay proposal:

This week, the Obama administration offered up an intriguing proposal aimed at boosting wages for millions of American workers.

But for us, the proposal left more questions than answers.

The Obama administration is proposing making up to 5 million more people eligible for overtime. These workers would benefit from rules requiring businesses to pay eligible employees 1½ times their regular pay for any hours work beyond 40 in a week.

The long-awaited overtime rule from the Labor Department would more than double the threshold at which employers can avoid paying overtime, to $970 a week by next year. That would mean salaried employees earning less than $50,440 a year would be assured overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week. Currently, employers aren’t required to pay overtime to salaried employees who make at least $23,660.

The rule change is targeted at business where many low-wage supervisors must work grueling hours performing much the same duties as the employees they supervise - often at an hourly pay rate that’s lower than those they supervise. That feels exploitative to us, and we think it’s worth addressing.

What worries us, though, is the number. In many communities - Greeley among them - where both wages and cost of living remain relatively low, the $50,440 threshold seems arbitrarily high. Conversely, in communities like New York or Los Angeles, the benchmark may be uselessly low. We also have questions about how businesses across the country would adjust to such an abrupt change.

That said, we think it’s a good conversation to have, and we hope to see more details about how such a rule change would work before any such action is taken.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1HMY6eN


The Denver Post, July 5, on extending the Northwest Rail:

Frustration felt by a group in Longmont over the lack of a northwest commuter line is understandable but misguided.

Voters throughout the metro region, including in Boulder County, approved a sales tax increase in 2004 to help build the mass transit FasTracks system.

Millions of dollars have been collected, but the commuter rail line into Boulder County probably never will be built. Officials with the Regional Transportation District say it isn’t likely until after 2040.

Extending Northwest Rail to Longmont would cost somewhere north of $1.12 billion. A convergence of events put the price tag into the stratosphere, including an unexpected decline in sales tax revenues when the economy tanked and the skyrocketing costs of having to share the rail lines.

The group led by two Longmont women understandably wants the rail line that was promised. An online petition calls for a special fund to collect tax revenue and surplus money for the project.

But even the $143 million that Boulder County taxpayers have paid into FasTracks for 10 years doesn’t come close to the cost of rail. And the demand for a train ignores the fact that FasTracks has paid for bus rapid transit service to begin on U.S. 36 next year.

The group also demands no other rail or rail line extension, bus rapid transit corridor, or trolley system be built until the Northwest Rail Corridor is funded. Should we really shut down all progress until Longmont gets its astronomically priced choo-choo?

The Northwest rail line was always the most expensive FasTracks corridor on a projected per-passenger basis. And that remains the case today, as more recent estimates confirm. As even the RTD representative from the northwest communities once said, “Is it rail at any cost? Of course not.”

Moreover, RTD has come up with a valid alternative that wouldn’t be so costly. A BRT system was recommended for six corridors, with the priority being a $57 million line along Colorado 119 between Longmont and Boulder.

Unfortunately, those projects are not eligible for FasTracks revenue, but RTD recently got a $1 million grant to begin preliminary work and is hopeful for further funding.

The BRT alternative is more flexible, less costly and could provide more frequent service than a train. In other words, it would put more passengers in mass transit.

It would be more productive for the Longmont group to focus on making this sensible BRT alternative happen than pining about a train.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/1NSPbaw


The Montrose Daily Press, July 8, on the U.S. Women’s World Cup victory:

Congratulations to America’s Women’s World Cup soccer team.

Kudos to the women who broke out to a 4-0 early lead and allowed the rest of us to sit back and enjoy the game in the ease of a comfortable lead. Thank you for uniting our country in this day of political correctness and uneasy divisiveness, for you have brought us together in national pride. Thank you, even for a couple of hours, for uniting us in the melting-pot promise of America, so that we may celebrate our similarities rather than our differences.

Certainly, with the women’s quick start, the tension was off, as I sat in RNR Sports Pub, indulging in my favorite dark brew, toasting Carli Lloyd’s hat trick and all of you, collectively. A competitive sort, I especially savored the fifth goal after Japan scored back-to-back goals. That clincher of a goal, ladies, slammed the door on the reigning champs, adding an exclamation point as if to say, “That’s enough. Not this time!”

The Cup victory should end the debate as to whether America is a soccer country. Yes, this was their third Cup championship, and now the USA women reign supreme with more Cup victories than any other country.

So, who do we thank for their success? First, and foremost, we recognize the women themselves. They lost to Japan four years ago in a contest they led, only to be tied and lose in overtime kicks. That heart-breaking loss remained a nagging pebble in the collective cleats of the USA women for nearly 1,500 days as they worked to right that wrong in the best possible way. Not only did they win the Cup, but they bettered the team that beat them, 5-2.

Also, we should be grateful for what seemed like a little thing 43 years ago, that has grown into something much larger, which ultimately led to the “Trifecta of World Cup wins” for our women.

It is Title IX.

I was in high school when Congress passed Title IX, way back in 1972. Back then - before Title IX - high school girls had two options: They could be cheerleaders or they could join any number of extra-curricular clubs, such as the biology or home-economics clubs. Sports were pretty much taboo.

Really, girls playing sports?! Gosh, it just wasn’t done back then.

Oh, but how things have changed.

Because Title IX mandated similarities for all educational programs, girls/women’s sports benefited. In fact, think of the incentive the USA women’s program has instilled in the men’s soccer program!

Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and college sports, and while the original statute made no explicit mention of sports, but, oh, how sports have flourished, ultimately leading to terrific women’s basketball and softball teams in Olympic competition and, now, three World Cup championship teams.

Back in 1972, Title IX seemed a little bit of a nuisance for guys’ sports who were told they couldn’t get new football jerseys this year because funding was paying for jerseys to the fledgling girls soccer program. But, hey, those were the days of the Equal Rights Amendment that helped level the playing field for not only all men’s sports but for the women, too.

Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana took a lot of heat back then when he introduced Title IX on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

At the time, Bayh was working on numerous constitutional issues related to women’s rights, including the ERA, to build “a powerful constitutional base from which to move forward in abolishing discriminatory differential treatment based on sex.

Ultimately, Title IX became law on June 23, 1972, when President Nixon signed the bill. According to online research, Nixon spoke mostly about desegregation of busing (remember that debate?), which also was a focus of the signed bill, but did not mention the expansion of educational access for women he had enacted.

It took time after the law for equality to “trickle down” to women’s athletics.

I recall the debate of how Title IX would affect affect men’s athletics, which prompted some to look for ways to limit the influence of Title IX. A college journalist, our campus newspaper was full of reports about the Title IX influence on athletics.

Online accounts say Bayh spent the next three years keeping watch over the feds to get Title IX regulations formulated that carried out its legislative intent of eliminating discrimination in higher education on the basis of sex.

Back in 1975 when Title IX was affecting my college, it was a bitter pill for men’s athletics to swallow. Sharing already tight revenues with women’s programs was something many were unwilling to do. However, it became the law of the land, and now, 43 years later, we have three World Cup victories to thank for America’s progressive thinking.

That perceived unsavory pill 43 years ago now seems like a sugary placebo that was well worth the equality promised by our Founding Fathers.

Thank you, ladies, for making us all proud.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1RkD3ou

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